With the increasing accessibility of the Internet, and the remarkable improvement in the quality of computer audio systems, online hearing tests are fast becoming popular in the general public as a preliminary screening test.
In spite of this, the million dollar question remains: Are Online Hearing Tests fake?
These tests have been so designed as to perform self-administrated listening comparisons over the Internet in order to assess an individual's hearing function.
Part 1 of the test, comprises the establishment of the reference for the specific computer audio system, by measuring the hearing threshold of a normal listener. This is the biological calibration of the sound system. In the second part of the test, the threshold of the individual with suspected hearing loss is plotted against the same settings as for the reference established in Part 1. The threshold differences between the two are an index of the amount of hearing loss of the testing subject.
The results of Online-Hearing Tests are more susceptible to errors in comparison to standard audiograms for various reasons. First and foremost, is the fact that the test Is not administrated by a hearing care professional with experience in assessing its results. The other variables that affect its precision include the variations in the ambient noise level of the location of the test, variations in the hearing level of the normal test reference, and variations in the quality of the audio systems from computer to computer.
Given that the Online Hearing Test Does not use a carefully calibrated audiometer,or standard testing conditions, its results may vary considerably, when compared with those of a standard audiogram.
In order to reduce this variation, certain precautions are necessary. You should try and minimize the ambient noise in the testing room, and maximize the probability of using a reference listener who has a normal hearing (try using a young healthy adult for the biological calibration of your Online Hearing Test). Also, make sure that your audio system has good acoustics with minimal distortion of sound, in fact using close fittings headphones for the test is highly recommended.
These tests do not claim to replace the more accurate traditional auditory assessments which are performed by qualified hearing care professionals as part of the specific clinical check up.
Online hearing tests are an effective screening tool and can provide a quick hearing estimate within the confines of their homes. The designers of these tests urge all users to visit the offices of their local hearing care professional in case the tests show an aberrant result.
In spite of the fact that the actual sound level and spectral purity that determine the estimation of thresholds depend on the frequency response of your computer, Online Hearing tests may not be labeled as fake. It must be kept in mind that the results of Online Hearing tests may not be used as definitive clinical data, but all they provide is an approximate result. There primary purpose is to motivate the subject to approach an audiologist for further assessment regarding the potential benefits of amplification.
Margaret White is a medical correspondent based in Beverly Hills and covers medical issues. In a series of articles she will be covering problems associated with hearing loss and hearing aids. . You can take a Free Online Hearing Test at Hearing ABC to check your audio perceptiveness.