While convenience and affordability may entice some people to test their own hearing instead of seeking professional help, there are still many questions that need to be raised. “How accurate are these tests?” “How much room for user error is there?” and “How effective will they be in ensuring that a person takes action on their hearing loss?” are a few among many concerns that need to be taken into consideration.
According to the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), it takes a person, on average, seven years to take action on suspected hearing loss. This could be due to the fact that people don’t want to take time out of their schedule to set an appointment with an audiologist and travel to a clinic for testing. The prospect of being able to screen for hearing loss from the comfort of home may entice many to get their hearing checked because the processes would be less time consuming and more convenient. There won’t be the same level of quality as getting screened by a hearing care professional, but if the results come up positive for hearing loss, it may motivate them to go seek professional help, whereas they otherwise wouldn’t have.
The results of an online hearing test can be significantly misinterpreted. If someone’s hearing loss is a result of earwax build-up or injury, they may take the wrong steps towards treating themselves. In addition, some digital tests may only check thresholds and not account for any difficulties understanding speech or attempting to hear in noisy environments. While the test may note there is “no significant loss of hearing,” a person may interpret that as an “all clear,” albeit they experience problems understanding speech and don’t converse well in noisy environments.
As stated above, there are digital tests that are promoted as being easy to take in “just 4 quick steps.” Low, medium, high, and very high tones are played, and the person’s reaction to each of them is evaluated. On the other hand, global hearing aid manufacturer Oticon offers an online hearing test that does take into consideration more than just reaction to various tone levels. It’s a short test that not only that asks a series of questions about the person’s ability to hear types of sounds and in specific environments. The Oticon test also asks about any difficulties with hearing and understanding speech. It is more thorough than the quickie tests and can give the test-taker a higher quality evaluation.
The Bottom Line
Online testing does not provide the comprehensive evaluation that only you, as a hearing care professional, can offer. Consider a digital, online hearing test as a “first step” or a “wake-up call” to anyone who has the slightest inkling they may have suffered some hearing loss. If it motivates them to contact your office for an appointment to undergo a real hearing exam, then digital hearing tests will have proven to be beneficial. That seven-year waiting period to seek help can be significantly reduced, and there is nothing wrong with that.