Woman smiling while taking a free online hearing test outdoors

Free Online Hearing Test | What Does It Entail?

April 23, 2021

The rise of the internet and modern advancements in technology have made information and resources available at our fingertips. The vast knowledge can be overwhelming, but also incredibly useful when it comes to improving and monitoring our health and wellbeing. For people with hearing loss, the internet can provide tips to navigate nearly every situation, hints for taking care of your hearing health, and other helpful hearing loss information. This includes having your hearing tested online.

How does the online hearing test work?

The online hearing test is a virtual test that can be taken online to provide almost immediate information about your hearing health. The online hearing test is usually free of cost. This is because it is usually a screening test that is administered to determine if the person requires further assessment. Newer developments in technology have been designed to offer online hearing tests that can be used for the fitting of hearing aids. The person does not have to experience hearing-related problems to complete an online hearing test. In fact, many people who have hearing loss may not be aware that they have it.

Online hearing tests can be categorized into two groups. Calibrated and non-calibrated hearing tests. Calibrated hearing tests assess the absolute hearing threshold of the person, that is, the faintest sound that the person is capable of hearing. This means that the test administered will measure the readings of the test according to a standardized reading. For example, the readings of the test can be measured against the output of the most commonly used headphones or speakers. If not, additional tools can be supplied, or procedures implemented to ensure calibration of the test to ensure that the same readings are obtained. This is how accuracy is achieved with calibrated tests by ensuring that the results obtained are measured against standardized readings.

Non-calibrated tests are those running without a precise reference level. During these tests, the user will be asked to turn the level of their computer up until he/she can comfortably hear the sounds used for the test. Speech in noise tests is usually an example of non-calibrated tests. Most of the tests available online are non-calibrated.
The internet hosts a platform for several online hearing and health tests.

The pro’s

People take an average of seven years to make an appointment with a hearing health care provider after suspecting that they may present with a hearing loss. Online tests have provided a solution to bridge the gap in time and incentivize the person to seek professional help that is free of cost and within the comfort of their home. This naturally highlights the convenience of online tests and the fact that people do not have to take time out of their schedule to set an appointment with a professional and travel to a test facility, making the processes less time-consuming and more convenient. The online test will not offer the same level of quality as getting screened by a hearing health care professional, but if the results advise that further assessment is required, it may motivate the person to go seek professional help.

The gradual nature of hearing loss often makes it difficult for persons with hearing loss to identify when their quality of hearing is decreasing. These tests provide us with a sense of reassurance and reality on what can be expected with regard to the potential changes in our hearing status. Online hearing tests make it incredibly easy for people who suspect they have hearing loss to start the process of learning about their hearing performance. In other words, it helps the person actively work towards improving their hearing health and general state of well-being. Finally, taking a digital hearing test in the privacy of the person’s own home may feel less intimidating than making an initial appointment with a professional. This provides the person with time and space to process the results independently, before seeking assistance from a professional.

The con’s

There is a wide range of online hearing tests accessible, however, they have not all been developed with clinical accuracy. As a result, this could provide inaccurate test results stating that normal hearing is impaired or vice versa. Secondly, online tests may be able to determine the presence of a potential hearing loss, however, they will not be able to determine the cause of the hearing loss. A notable limitation of online hearing tests is their incapacity to give a qualitative analysis. They are unable to find out what kind of hearing loss the person may have, the cause or the anatomical area affected. In a physical examination, the person will undergo a series of audiological examinations that identify the presence of hearing impairment in addition to other examinations that find out the exact cause behind it. This is particularly important as the treatment will be based on where the hearing loss is stemming from.

These in-depth analyses often require medical devices. The results of an online hearing test can be significantly misinterpreted. If the persons hearing loss is a result of earwax build-up or injury, he/she may take the wrong steps towards treatment. In addition, some digital tests may only check thresholds and not account for any difficulties understanding speech or attempting to hear in noisy environments. This is often a sign that the person can benefit from the use of hearing aids even when pure the absolute thresholds may be close to normal. During a formal hearing test performed by a professional, the intake of your medical and hearing-health history is one of the crucial elements in the diagnosis and management of hearing loss. Online hearing tests offer a more informal approach in this area as the goal is rather to determine the need for further testing.

With formal testing, a licensed hearing healthcare professional will usually have access to the most cutting-edge technology, including evaluation programs that are capable of testing the person’s 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.)

Finally, an online hearing test only measures hearing. It does not assess the health of your ears, the state of your bone structure, and other crucial elements of hearing health that a hearing health professional may check.

How does Lexie’s online hearing test work?

The free online Lexie hearing test is a hearing screening test that can be taken on the Lexie website, using any set of headphones or earphones that the person has at home. The hearing test employs a digit in noise test. This works by presenting random numbers in pairs of three with noise in the background. The background noise will either become louder or softer during the test, based on the response of the person being tested to determine their unique ability to understand speech in background noise. The test determines your speech recognition threshold (in a dB signal-to-noise ratio). This will indicate whether the user may experience difficulty hearing. The SIN test reflects your ability to understand speech in the presence of background noise, something individuals with hearing difficulty typically struggle with. If the results obtained are reduced, the person is likely to benefit from a hearing aid. The Lexie experts then jump in and advise the user on the process going forward.

Extensive research has been conducted to validate the technology used in the Lexie hearing test. The accuracy of Lexie’s hearing test exceeds 90% and the test can reliably be taken on a PC, tablet, or smartphone with any set of head/earphones. In comparison to traditional pure-tone audiometry, speech-in-noise tests do not require calibrated equipment and are less sensitive to environmental noise. Another advantage of SIN tests is that they measure functional real-life difficulties with speech comprehension in background noise. The screening test has shown to detect different kinds of hearing losses and can be completed within 2 minutes. The results are highly correlated with pure-tone audiometry thresholds.

Ideally, a battery of tests with the professional expertise offered by Lexie could offer a potential opportunity towards taking active control of the persons hearing all from the comfort of his/her home.
Online hearing tests may have their limitations but given the rise of the digital age, they may be the active link towards improved hearing habits for future generations. Online testing does not provide a comprehensive evaluation that hearing care professionals can offer. Instead, consider online hearing tests as an effective tool as an initial assessment. The best way going forward is to seek expert advice from your hearing professional, both to get a clear picture of the situation and to better understand the ideal treatment modalities whether in person or online.

Image of post writer Nausheen Dawood.

Written by Nausheen Dawood

M. Audiology; B. Communication Pathology in Audiology


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