From paying bills to ordering groceries and getting your hearing tested, nowadays, you can get almost anything done online. While the internet is making modern life easy, it has its limitations. Similarly to when you order clothing online and wonder if they will look the same, and fit fine, in real life, you may wonder if a hearing test taken online is reliable and as good of an alternative as seeing an audiologist in person.
How Do Online Hearing Tests Work?
An online hearing test lets you test your hearing from the comfort and privacy of your own home. All you need is an internet connection, a quiet place, and a set of headphones or earbuds. In the end, you get a brief evaluation. While this may sound convenient and like an attractive alternative to making an appointment with an audiologist, know that online hearing tests are unlikely to accurately or reliably identify the extent of your hearing problems, which may cost you more in the long run.
Are Online Hearing Tests Reliable?
If you already think you have hearing loss, it’s not recommended to fully trust an online hearing test to give you the answers you need.
Though they aren’t at all comparable to a highly accurate and in-depth evaluation by a trained professional, they’re a decent first step to take towards recognizing that there may be a problem with your hearing and starting your journey towards better hearing health. They offer a private way to explore your concerns and encourage early intervention and rehabilitation – something that is key because it can have a protective effect on your hearing and cognitive functions.
Perhaps the most important thing about an online hearing test is honesty on the part of the test-taker. You should take the test as best as you can, resisting the temptation to turn up the volume on your computer to make it easier to complete. Also, honesty in admitting if there’s an issue and you need to seek professional help.
If an online hearing test encourages you to see an audiologist sooner than you would otherwise, it serves a valuable purpose. However, note that the result will be nothing like what a professional audiologist can give you. It is best to think of online hearing tests as a screening test and not a diagnostic test. They give general rather than specific results, meaning you’ll learn if you have a suspected hearing loss but not find out its type, degree or probable cause.
What are the benefits of seeing an audiologist instead?
A full picture
When you visit an audiologist, they ask you questions about your current and past medical and physical history, as well as your work, habits, hobbies, and environments in which you usually use your hearing. These are all important information to take into account for a proper diagnosis.
Ruling out medical conditions
There are many physical conditions that can impact your hearing status as well, while your hearing problems can also make other medical conditions worse. If you’re experiencing ringing in your ears (tinnitus), exposure to hazardous, loud sounds recreationally or professionally, or any other hearing-or balance-related issues, the audiologist will address these with you, putting your every need first.
A physical examination
A hearing evaluation also includes the audiologist assessing your ears to determine if obstructions like ear wax, drainage, or bleeding are present in the ear canal. An online test cannot do any of this.
Instead of headphones in an everyday environment that can skew your results, an audiologist evaluates your hearing with properly calibrated equipment in sound-treated rooms. This is nearly impossible to recreate at home.
Conducting several tests
Instead of just evaluating your hearing sensitivity for different pitches like an online test, audiologists can also conduct various tests and can not only determine whether you do or do not have hearing loss, but also where in the auditory system the hearing loss exists—there can be a problem in the ear canal, ear drum, inner ear, or with the auditory nerve. They can also evaluate the possible causes.
Understanding the results
An audiologist will not only tell you if you do or do not have hearing loss. After a diagnosis is ready, they can help you interpret the results and give you professional advice in terms of treatment plans, hearing aid styles and financial details. The audiogram is just a small piece of the puzzle when providing treatment recommendations for someone with hearing loss. While online hearing tests do provide an audiogram, they fail to go beyond the graph and get to know the patient, which is the most important piece for a successful outcome.
The Bottom Line
An online hearing test can be a gentle introduction to the whole process of hearing care and a way to dip your toe in the water. If you take one, and it shows a possible hearing loss, it’s important to then see a professional audiologist and get your hearing impairment investigated in order to:
- Rule out any medical conditions that could be causing your hearing loss
- Diagnose the type and degree of your hearing loss
- Start early intervention and rehabilitation to help protect your hearing and cognitive health and to improve your quality of life and sense of connection
The only way to get real peace of mind about your hearing condition and to assess appropriate treatment and management options is to take a comprehensive diagnostic hearing evaluation completed by an audiologist in a sound-treated environment that meets current testing standards.
At Chicago Hearing Services, we believe in personalized care, which means that we will find the best possible solution, treatment and hearing device for you and your unique needs. If you think you need a hearing evaluation, book an appointment today!