When it comes to hearing loss and the prospect of wearing hearing aids, a hearing test is the judge and jury. A hearing test allows you and your audiologist to understand whether you have a hearing problem and how severe it is. For decades now, the norm has been to visit an audiologist and get a physical hearing exam. However, in recent years, ‘online tests’ have cropped up. And this, therefore, begs the question – do these online tests work? Below, we seek to reveal the truth.
What a hearing test should entail
In order to get to the bottom of this debate, we first must understand what a hearing test should entail. And this includes:
A consultation. This is where the audiologist asks you about your hearing and any problems you may have experienced in the past. The audiologist may ask you questions such as whether you have trouble hearing, whether you ever hear any ringing in your ears, whether you have worked in noisy environments, whether you experience ear pain, etc. These questions are posed to help diagnose any hearing condition or risk that you may have.
Ear examination. Here the audiologist will examine your ears physically. He/she will check for foreign objects in the ear, excess wax in the ear, a damaged ear drum, ear discharge, etc. These are all potential signs of ear damage, ear infection, and possible hearing loss.
Hearing tests. This is where the actual hearing tests are carried out. A pure tone audiometry test checks to see if your ears can interpret tones at different pitches and volumes. A whispered voice test checks to see if you can interpret whispered sounds. A speech perception test checks to see if your ears can interpret speech without any visual aid. A Tympanometry test checks to see if the eardrum is damaged in any way. A tuning fork test uses vibrations to check for conductive hearing loss. And lastly, a bone conduction test is carried out to see how well the hearing nerves are working.
Results assessment. Here the results of the test are relayed to you and their significance explained by the audiologist.
How online hearing tests are carried out
Online hearing tests are carried out remotely. The user plugs earphones into their computer and various sounds and tones are played at various volumes. The test gauges which sounds the user is able to hear, at which pitch, and in which ear. Because the patient is not in the presence of the audiologist, certain tests that require use of specialized equipment are not applied.
An online test works, but it is very limited compared to a physical one. Of all the needed tests, online hearing tests are only feasible when it comes to voice and speech tests. Online tests cannot offer vibration tests, Tympanometry tests, or a bone conduction test.
Online tests are, therefore, insufficient and incomplete as far as gauging hearing loss or hearing damage is concerned. They can be used as a simple indicator but patients requiring serious hearing assessments must visit an audiologist in person for a full hearing examination and test.