To give a little background, hearing can be thought of as having four
faces: acuity, clarity, loudness tolerance, and figure-ground. Acuity is
your sensitivity to quiet sounds (which is what was likely assessed during
your 'tone test'). That's what most people think of when they talk about
'hearing loss'. Clarity is the _clearness_ of sound reaching your brain;
with some kinds of disorders sound will seem loud enough but will sound
distorted. Loudness tolerance refers to the point at which sounds become
uncomfortable for you to listen to; with some disorders, sounds seem loud
more quickly than they do for normal listeners. And figure-ground is what
you're talking about - the ability to separate what the signal you're trying
to listen to from the background noise. People can have trouble in one or
any combination of the areas.
Pretty simply, you don't need to memorize all the different test options.
Just find an audiologist who is certified by either ASHA or AAA (they'll
have CCCs or Board Certification). Tell that person that you've had some
level of screening that you think may have shown normal sensitivity, but
that you're having problems with background noise. The audiologist will be
able to devise a strong test battery to help you determine the full problem,
and help you find ways to overcome it.
Danica Siefken Billingsly
danica at bigfoot.com