Are online hearing tests effective?

At the Art of Hearing we know seeing you is the key to better hearing. But in today’s busy world, sometimes convenience trumps quality. In recent years a growing number of web and app-based hearing tests have sprung up.

Some of these, like Know Your Noise, are government initiatives aimed at increasing awareness and providing the public with relevant advice and information about hearing health. Others advertise themselves as an alternative to visiting an audiologist, and the ability to manage your own treatment from home.

While testing your hearing from the comfort of your own home might sound attractive, there are some things to be aware of before you take your hearing health into your own hands.

How do they work?

Online hearing tests use a type of test known as ‘air conduction testing’ to determine a person’s sensitivity to different pitches. Air conduction testing measures only one aspect of hearing, sound that is entering through the ear canal. While some online hearing tests may use tones, a typical test will call out words, while the individual selects the corresponding picture. Each of the sounds are played at different volumes and with differing levels of background noise.

How effective are they?

But there are problems with online hearing tests. One is the environment in which you take the test. A test taken in a noisy room will not be accurate. Likewise, a test taken with low-quality speakers and sound equipment will also provide inaccurate results.

To determine the kind of hearing loss, and where it’s located, audiologists use a form of testing known as ‘bone conduction.’ Bone conduction testing uses specialized equipment that can measure sound as it is transmitted through bone. This is the only way to determine if an individual has hearing loss which can be treated medically or would benefit from hearing aids and amplification devices.

Use them as a tool

If you’re concerned about your hearing, an online hearing test is accurate enough to provide you with a general overview of the state of your hearing. The results can give you a broad idea about the current state of your hearing. What it can’t do is identify what type of hearing issue you’re experiencing. Only a trained audiologist can help you get to the root of your hearing problem.

As a tool, online hearing tests can provide the benefit of early detection. Just last year the Australian Federal Government funded the roll out of the Sound Scouts hearing test app to help assess hearing difficulties in school age children. As a result, six hundred kids between the ages of 5 and 7 received treatment and hearing aids for the first time.

Although they have their limitations, an online hearing test can be a good place to start to help you gauge if there are any problems. It’s important to keep in mind their limitations and discuss the results with a hearing specialist to ensure the best treatment options are made available to you.

Have you taken an online hearing test recently? Curious about the results? We’re here to help you make sense of them. Reach out to the experts at the Art of Hearing today to find out how we can help you hear better.