What Are Rinne and Weber Tests?

    Rinne and Weber tests are exams that test for hearing loss. They determine whether a patient has conductive or sensorineural hearing loss. This determination allows a doctor to come up with a treatment option.

    A Rinne test compares air- and bone-conduction hearing. Air-conduction hearing occurs through air near the ear, and bone-conduction hearing occurs through vibrations.

    A Weber test determines whether an issue is conductive or sensorineural hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves are not able to pass through the inner ear. This can be caused by an infection, a buildup of earwax, a punctured eardrum, and fluid in the middle ear. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when auditory nerves or hair cells are damaged in the inner ear. This is also known as "nerve deafness," and it is caused mostly by aging.

    Both tests are used to evaluate a patient's hearing. Early identification allows patients to get treatment before problems progress to total hearing loss.

    What Are the Benefits of Rinne and Weber Tests?

    Doctors benefit from Rinne and Weber tests because they have an easier time diagnosing hearing problems with them.

    The tests can help identify the conditions that cause hearing loss. Examples of conditions identified by Rinne and Weber Tests include:

    • drum perforation
    • impacted wax
    • middle ear fluid
    • stapes fixation
    • otosclerosis
    • nerve deafness
    • conduction deafness

    How Are Rinne and Weber Tests Administered?

    Rinne and Weber tests both use 512Hz tuning forks to test how a patient responds to sounds and vibrations near the ears.

    Rinne Test

    1. The doctor strikes a tuning fork and places it near the base of your mastoid bone.
    2. The doctor asks you to say when you no longer hear the sound.
    3. The doctor notes the time and moves the tuning fork near the ear canal.
    4. The doctor asks you to say when you no longer hear the sound.
    5. The doctor compares the time intervals for the two steps.

    Weber Test

    1. The doctor strikes a tuning fork and places it on the middle of your head.
    2. The doctor asks you where the sound is coming from: the left ear, the right ear, or both.

    What Are the Results of Rinne and Weber Tests?

    There are no risks associated with Rinne and Weber tests. They are non-invasive and cause no pain. The information they provide determines whether a patient needs treatment for hearing loss.

    Rinne Test Results

    • Normal hearing will show an air-conduction time that is twice as long as the bone conduction. In reference to the administration steps described earlier, the second time would be twice as long as the first.
    • If a patient has conductive hearing loss, the bone conduction sound is longer than or equal to the air conduction sound.
    • If a patient has sensorineural hearing loss, air conduction is heard longer than bone conduction, but it is not heard to be twice as long.

    Weber Test Results

    • Normal hearing will indicate sound in both ears.
    • Conductive loss will indicate the sound travels towards the poor ear.
    • Sensorineural loss will indicate the sound travels towards the good ear.

    How Does a Patient Prepare for Rinne and Weber Tests?

    There is no preparation necessary for Rinne and Weber tests. A patient simply needs to go to the doctor's office, and the doctor will conduct the tests there. The tests may be conducted anywhere a tuning fork is available.

    What Is the Outlook After Rinne and Weber Tests?

    There are no side effects of Rinne and Weber tests. After you have Rinne and Weber tests, you will be able to discuss any necessary treatment options with your doctor. Your doctor will suggest ways to reverse, correct, or improve your hearing problems so you can overcome your hearing loss.