Online Hearing Tests: Are They Accurate?

Man & woman at computer | A Better Ear

If you (or your family) suspect that your hearing isn’t as good as it used to be, then you’re faced with the question of what to do about it.

You may be too busy with work and other commitments to take time out for a health appointment. You might not yet feel ready to walk into an audiology clinic for a full assessment (even one as welcoming as ours!). That’s where online hearing tests can help.

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.

You can find a free hearing test online on A Better Ear’s website. It begins by asking you a few questions about how you feel in different listening situations and asks if you believe you have a hearing loss.

With the volume set to 50%, the test starts. It covers only 3 sound frequencies: low, medium and high. You’ll be listening for beeps and will turn the volume up or down until you can just hear the sound.

At the end of the test, you’ll see a summary statement of your results and can opt to have a more detailed report emailed to you if you’d like.

How accurate are online hearing tests?

Online hearing tests have their place but they don’t replace a full hearing assessment by a trained audiologist using properly calibrated equipment in a sound-treated clinic.

What are the pros and cons of online hearing tests?

Online hearing tests can be helpful because they are a:

  • Gentle introduction to the whole process of hearing testing, a way to dip your toe in the water
  • Private way to explore concerns about your hearing
  • Helpful first step if you’re time poor
  • Gateway to getting a full hearing assessment
  • Way to encourage early intervention and hearing rehabilitation.

The last point is an important one. On average, people who suspect they have hearing loss wait about 10 years before seeking help. That’s around a decade of decreasing stimulation of your auditory system while your brain works overtime to compensate for hearing difficulties.

Early diagnosis and intervention is important because it has a protective effect on your hearing and your brain. If doing an online hearing test encourages you to see an audiologist sooner than you otherwise would have, then the test has served a valuable purpose.

The drawbacks of online hearing tests are:

  • Their limited accuracy – best to think of them as a screening test not a diagnostic test
  • They give general rather than specific results meaning you’ll learn if you have a suspected hearing loss but not learn about its type, degree or probable cause
  • Their reliance on everyday equipment like your own computer and headphones in an everyday environment which can skew your results (there’s a reason we invest in properly calibrated equipment and sound-treated rooms)
  • The lack of personalised advice and support from a professional who can help you interpret the results.

Next steps after an online hearing test

Doing an online hearing test is a positive step forward. What do you do with the results, though?

Firstly, it’s worth getting the full report emailed to you rather than relying on the summary. You’ll learn more from the experience and have a better understanding of what to do next.

Secondly, if the online hearing test does show a possible hearing loss, it’s important to get that investigated in order to:

How can A Better Ear help?

When you can come to see us at A Better Ear, you’ll walk into a warm, friendly environment that feels more like your living room than a clinic.

We’ll take you through to our sound-treated consultation room where you’ll experience several types of hearing tests designed to fully assess your hearing using properly calibrated equipment.

Once the tests are complete, we’ll sit down and go through the results together.

If there is a hearing loss diagnosis, early intervention with a hearing aid may be the best option from a clinical perspective but we understand that some people are not ready to take that step immediately. That’s why we also advise on other ways to manage your hearing loss and improve your sense of connection. We’re in this together, without pressure.

If you would like to explore your hearing and the options for hearing better, then please make an appointment.

All information is general in nature. Patients should consider their own personal circumstances and seek a second opinion.