Are Online Hearing Tests Useful?

Posted Sep 27th, 2019 in News, Hearing Loss, Technology

Online test

DIY is a big deal these days. Got a fix-it problem around the house? A little online searching is all it takes to find some handy, do-it-yourself, how-to videos. That attitude has even made its way into healthcare. We aren’t at the point where people are looking up how to do a home appendectomy, but there are a lot of ways for people to play an active role in diagnosing and monitoring themselves.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to find a machine that will test your blood pressure in your local pharmacy. You can probably also buy your own home blood-pressure cuff or other home testing device. You’ll likely also find home tests for such things as blood-sugar levels, colon cancer and more. And of course, let’s not forget those home pregnancy tests that become the first in a long line of happy memories for people. 

And when there’s no kit to bring home, there are online options to use, such as free online vision and hearing tests. That’s right—free online hearing tests. Several online or app-based home hearing tests have been developed and, as one might expect, research has revealed pros and cons.

On the Positive Side

One of the most important benefits of DIY hearing tests is the privacy they provide. There’s a lot of stigmas involved in the subject of hearing loss and taking some pressure off in the early stages of dealing with it is a good idea. When people suspect that they may be losing their hearing, they tend to wait about seven years before consulting a professional about it. Because hearing loss tends to progress gradually, without calling too much attention to itself all at once, there’s a great likelihood that it could increase substantially in the course of those seven years. Imagine being able to explore the possibility of hearing loss on your own, without having to say anything to anyone until you were sure. Verifying hearing loss in the comfort of one’s home may very well get a person moving more quickly on consulting a hearing healthcare provider.  

On the Less-Than-Positive Side

Even a test that can give an accurate measurement of your degree of hearing loss is only as helpful as your personal ability to analyze your results. For instance, the test might tell you THAT you have hearing loss, but it can’t tell you WHY.

Going out and buying hearing aids based on a hearing level estimate might feel like a great solution, but that won’t help if your hearing loss is the result of an ear-canal obstruction or a brain-function issue in the area where sound impulses are interpreted. Online hearing test also can’t give you a 360-degree view of your hearing health situation—not because they’re bad tests, but because their scope is limited.

For instance, if your online screening test of choice uses a pure-tone method in which each ear is played a series of tones through earphones, asking if you can hear each one, you’ll get some helpful information—but that info is only one dimension of your overall hearing picture. It’ll tell you what levels of sound you can hear, but it can’t test your ability to hear and understand speech and it can’t diagnose the underlying reason for your hearing loss. 

Tone testing needs to be backed up with tests of speech/word recognition, eardrum function, bone conduction beyond the eardrum, volume tolerance and more—including a physical ear exam. Effective testing will also take into account your medical history, which an app cannot do.

What This All Means

There’s nothing wrong with using a quality home hearing test, especially if it spurs you to consult a hearing health professional. Just remember that such tests can only give you a glimpse into your hearing health. Hearing loss is essentially a symptom that can have any of several causes. The only way to arrive at a conclusion as to why your home test identified a hearing loss is to follow it up with a thorough evaluation by a licensed hearing health professional. You can try our online hearing test by clicking this link.

As for treatment, a home hearing test cannot assess your needs in terms of a solution. Only a professional, using today’s state-of-the-art diagnostic technology, can get you on the path to addressing your individual hearing needs. You can find those professionals and all the latest technology right here, at Arnold Hearing Centres.

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