The advent of the internet has definitely made our lives convenient. Gone are the days when we had to run our fingers through the glossary to locate a topic in the encyclopedia or such other book. With all the information being just a click away, getting away with questionable ‘facts’ is not as easy anymore.
The same is true when it comes to hearing tests, with the internet simplifying the process of detecting hearing loss with the wide array of hearing tests that can be found online. However, before you get lost in process of choosing the best option from the vast ocean of online tests to check for hearing loss, it would be a good idea to know the pros and cons of these.
When it comes to online hearing tests, one thing clearly stands out: it saves both our time and energy as it enable us to get a quick insight of how our hearing capacity fares in comparison to the predetermined healthy level. It may so be that our family or friends have suggested us to get checked or maybe we just want to be sure. After all, the gradual nature of hearing loss often makes it difficult to be certain. These tests provide us with a discreet as well as an almost correct picture of how our hearing is likely to be.
BUT… there are two catchwords here: ‘almost’ and ‘likely.’ Even the most ingeniously devised online tests cannot compare with an in-person hearing analysis conducted by a qualified hearing professional. The latter involves an inside-out physical evaluation of the whole ear with specific noise levels in the surroundings so as to obtain a precisely measured hearing capacity. The in-person hearing tests are much more thorough and accurate in all aspects when compared to its online counterpart.
So, if you’re taking the online hearing test in a place that has other noises, you can end up getting skewed results despite wearing headphones, especially when the tests involves sound tones. Contrariwise, licensed professionals have the most cutting-edge technology, including evaluation programs that are capable of testing your hearing capacity in various settings. Moreover, the headphones that they use pass through stringent quality checks to meet the standard set by the ANSI (American National Standards Institute.) In fact, a simple experiment of taking the online hearing exams can yield the truth about the discrepancy in results due to the quality of headphone that is used.
Another notable limitation of online hearing examinations is their incapacity to give a qualitative analysis. They are unable to find out what kind of hearing loss you have or its cause. In a physical examination, you undergo a series of audiological examinations not just to identify the presence of hearing impairment but to also find out the exact cause behind it. This is particularly important because your treatment is invariably based on where the hearing loss is stemming from. These in-depth analyses often require medical devices that just can’t be substituted by an online test.
But, despite the staggering difference between the results of an in-person and online hearing evaluation and the limitations of the online version, let us also understand the many benefits that come along with the convenient online tests. A complete knowledge of their benefits and limitations can but help you make an informed decision before opting for an online test and also avoid any unrealistic expectations out of it.
The online hearing evaluation tests are best used to give a preliminary impression of your present hearing condition. While these tests allow for the detection of hearing loss early on, they almost always point towards the need of a full evaluation to ascertain the same. So, which online hearing test should one opt for? It is best if you look for a hearing website that offers “calibrated tests.” In a calibrated test, you get an indication of your actual hearing threshold. This is achieved by ‘calibrating’ your headphones, by adjusting the output volume of your computer to match the loudness of an external sound e.g. the sound of rubbing your palms together.
Non-calibrated tests, on the other hand, simply require you to increase the computer’s volume till the faintest test tone is audible. However, this approach is slightly flawed as it can quickly compensate for any deficit in your hearing capacity, thereby yielding misleading results. It is wise to keep in mind, though, that whether it’s a calibrated or a non-calibrated test, online hearing tests can just provide a superficial overview of one’s hearing capacity. It just cannot replace the precision of a thorough in-person evaluation.
So, after the initial assessment through an online hearing test, the best way going forward is to seek a detailed evaluation from your hearing professional, both to get a clear picture of the situation and to better understand the ideal treatment modalities.