The do-it-yourself era of health screening is here, along with greater convenience and consumer empowerment. You can check your blood pressure from a pharmacy kiosk, test yourself at home for HIV or colon cancer, or even screen your hearing online.
But do online hearing tests work? Let’s take a closer look, including the pros, the cons, and the bottom line for keeping your hearing in top shape.
People wait an average of seven years before making an appointment with a hearing care provider once they suspect they might have a hearing loss. Imagine how much sooner they might seek professional help if that first step — a hearing test — could be taken at home.
In that respect, quality online hearing tests do offer some solid benefits. They’re:
Some might even provide a reasonable estimate of your current hearing ability. In studies of how several online or app-based home hearing tests measure up against the sound booth of a hearing care professional, though, results have varied.
Even the most reliable online hearing test can be misinterpreted. If your results indicate a hearing loss, you need more context to understand the what and why.
For example, earwax buildup or debris in your ear canal could be the cause. It could be a symptom of issues in the sound-processing areas of your brain. But buying hearing aids online or at a big-box retailer won’t solve the problem — it will just mask the symptom.
Many online hearing screenings are similar to the one you probably had in elementary school: You’re played a series of sounds through earphones, and you indicate whether you can hear a given tone. It’s called the pure-tone air-conduction threshold test, and it measures the quietest sound you can reliably hear at least 50% of the time.
This is important data, but it only scratches the surface. It doesn’t explain how well you hear speech, how well you understand it, or whether the hearing loss is due to an injury in your ear. Online testing doesn’t provide the comprehensive evaluation you need for a more complete look at your hearing wellness.
A professional evaluation includes an inspection of your ears to rule out physical causes of your hearing loss, such as earwax buildup, blockage by debris, or damage to your ear. Then a battery of important tests measures things such as:
- How well sound moves through the air in your ear canal
- How well sound is transferred elsewhere in your skull by your bones
- Speech and word recognition
- How well your eardrum moves
- Whether there is a problem in your middle ear
- How your middle ear responds to sudden loud sounds
- Comfortable listening levels
- And more
The Bottom Line
A reliable home hearing test can be an important hearing-health wake-up call, especially if you or a loved one is on the fence about seeing a professional.
But remember, it’s only showing you a symptom — it doesn’t pinpoint the underlying problem or provide solutions for your unique needs. Only an audiologic evaluation gathers nuanced data about your auditory system and offers ways to improve your specific hearing difficulties.
Are you noticing difficulty communicating in your everyday activities? Did you take an online test that indicated potential hearing loss? Don’t wait — contact our caring team for a comprehensive evaluation today!