The digital age has brought incredible changes in the accessibility of everything from groceries to healthcare. The evolution of e-health and telemedicine shifted the focus from patients using a hearing clinic to access a hearing test to being able to conduct a test in the convenience of their homes.
Though, are these online hearing tests accurate? The answer is yes! Online hearing tests can be accurate, but you need to know what to look for in selecting a test to assess your hearing accurately, quickly and at no cost. However, there are also some limitations, so let's look at some pros and cons.
Pros of online hearing tests
People seem to take an average of seven years before making an appointment when suspecting that they have a hearing problem. Making time in your busy schedule to visit a hearing health professional might also be one of the reasons for postponing an appointment.
Additionally, gradual hearing loss often makes it difficult for people to know whether their hearing quality is decreasing. An online test can be valuable for identifying changes in your hearing status.
The convenience of online tests is valuable in terms of early-detection of problems, as well as being time effective. Online tests may also enable access to free professional help within the comfort of your home.
Taking a digital hearing test in the privacy of a person's home is less intimidating than having an appointment with a professional. Knowing that you have a hearing loss provides you time and space to process the results independently before seeking assistance from a professional.
Cons of online hearing tests
Inaccurate results are possible
A wide range of online hearing tests are available; however, they are not all developed with clinical accuracy. Inaccurate test results might even result from something simple as earwax build-up or a past injury.
They do not detect the cause of hearing loss
While online hearing tests can detect hearing loss, they cannot always determine the cause of the hearing loss. In a physical audiological examination, you will undergo a series of tests that will detect the presence of hearing impairment and the possible cause of the impairment, informing the necessary treatment.
It measures but doesn’t asses your hearing health
An online hearing test only measures hearing and does not assess your ears' health and the state of your bone structure. Other critical elements, such as medicines taken and your medical history, may also influence diagnosis, which is not always possible to detect with simple online tests.
How to select an online hearing test
The use of the internet as a testing platform provides several different types of hearing assessment tests: calibrated and uncalibrated tests.
Calibrated tests indicate the absolute thresholds of your hearing, measured against a standardised reading. Accuracy is obtained through calibration when the test produces the same readings after repeated tests under the same conditions. A pure tone test is a calibrated test in which tones are presented at different frequencies at different intensities (loud and soft), and the lowest heard tone recorded as the hearing threshold.
Uncalibrated tests are those running without a precise level of reference. A speech-in-noise (SIN) test is an example of an uncalibrated test, where the sound levels are turned up until a person comfortably hears the sounds.
Which type of online hearing test should you pick?
Several new approaches for hearing assessments online are constantly surfacing; however, validated hearing tests based on the SIN test method combined with questionnaires seem to be the best choice. SIN tests create more real-world listening scenarios and evaluate a person's aided performance against a normal performance-intensity function.
SIN tests are, therefore, used for assessing hearing speech in noisy situations as this problem is often one of the first signs of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). These SIN tests are more accurate than traditional pure-tone audiometry tests, especially when supplemented with Digits-in-noise (DIN) tests, where digit triplets in steady-state speech noise are used. The DIN test then renders results on noise's auditory and speech recognition abilities.
SIN tests accurately processes and evaluates how much distortional loss there might be by comparing the results to the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). As the SIN test involves evaluating speech intelligibility of the signal-to-noise ratio, knowledge of the absolute sound level is not required.
Studies show that background noise and a patient's perception of background annoyance and tolerance affect hearing aid use. SIN tests can also be a positive counselling tool to help patients evaluate their expectations to reach their listening potential.
Apart from the measuring instruments, pairing those tests with questionnaires is recommended. These questions usually consist of personal questions and questions about lifestyle habits and health conditions that may influence hearing loss. The questionnaires may vary but using a previously standardised and validated questionnaire enhances the accuracy of the screening.
Go Hearing Online Screener
Against the above background on selecting an online hearing test, the Go Hearing Online Screener is probably one of the most technologically advanced screening tests, and this is why:
- It's free of charge.
- It's a SIN test that can be taken by using any set of headphones or earphones that the person has at home.
- It determines a person’s unique ability to understand speech against background noise as it includes a digits-in-noise test that presents random numbers in pairs of three with noise in the background. The background noise will either become louder or get softer during the test.
- It assesses a person's speech recognition threshold (in a dB signal-to-noise ratio), indicating whether the user may have trouble hearing.
- It's validated as being accurate through extensive research, resulting in a 90% plus accuracy rate.
- It can reliably be taken on a PC, tablet, or smartphone with any head/earphones.
- It detects different kinds of hearing losses when correlated with pure-tone audiometry thresholds.
- It can be completed within two minutes.
- It determines whether the person is likely to benefit from a hearing aid.
- It's supported by many hearing experts who can then (either online or telephonically) advise the user on the process to follow.
Online hearing tests may have limitations, but given the rise of the digital age, they may be the active link towards improved hearing habits for future generations. Knowing what to look out for will help you find the best online hearing test.
Once you have results, it's best to seek expert advice from a hearing professional to get a clear picture of the situation and better understand the ideal treatment modalities, whether in person telephonically or online.
Contact us today to learn more about Go hearing aids and how you can hear better on the go!
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