Are Online Hearing Tests Accurate? Everything You Need to Know
Worried about your hearing?
You might have seen that an increasing number of websites, including ours, are now offering online hearing tests to check whether you have any problems. These online tests are a great screening tool to give you an idea of your hearing levels, but should not replace a full diagnostic hearing assessment by a hearing professional.
Here’s everything you need to know about online hearing tests and when you need to get offline and go see an audiologist for an in-person exam.
If you want to learn more about hearing tests, check out our resources:
How does an online hearing test work?
Online hearing tests are simple.
You’ll hear a series of sounds in-ear to check which frequencies you can hear and at what volume you can hear them.
Some tests personalise your results by asking questions about you. For example, knowing how old you are will help a test decide if it thinks reduced hearing at some frequencies is a natural problem caused by aging, or something else. These questions help the test personalise your results and aim to increase both the accuracy and the relevance of the advice you receive.
There are many advantages to taking part in an online hearing test. Specifically, these tests are:
- Completely free (suitable for all financial situations)
- Fast (can be completed in a matter of minutes)
- Discrete (complete the test in the privacy of your own home)
- Simple (follow the instructions on screen)
These advantages make online hearing tests a great diagnostic and screening tool if you have suspicions or concerns about your hearing.
Are there any downsides to getting an online hearing test?
There are some inherent drawbacks to online hearing tests that can make them less accurate. For example, you’re not in a controlled space, so background noise and distractions can negatively impact your results and the accuracy of the test.
Additionally, this type of tests requires on your own sound system, so if your computer speakers or headphones don’t work perfectly, it can also impact the results.
Finally, these online tests lack context and comprehensiveness. For example, it completely misses things like:
- Physical problems (like earwax or debris)
- How well sound moves through your ear canal
- How well your eardrum moves
- Comfortable listening levels
- Speech and word recognition
In other words, online hearing tests may be unable to gather all the contextual information needed to accurately evaluate your ear health nad wellness. That said, an online hearing test does make sense if you don’t suspect you have a serious problem or if you want to do some quick at-home diagnostics before seeing a professional.
How do you know if you need a professional hearing test?
So how do you know if you need an in-person hearing test instead of an online hearing test?
You should book an appointment if you can relate to any of the following:
✘ You find yourself regularly speaking too loudly to maintain conversations
✘ You have to turn up the volume on the radio or TV higher than before
✘ You have problems concentrating on voices in a noisy room
✘ Conversations sound muffled or like you are under water
✘ You experience difficulty hearing people clearly on the phone
✘ You have a hard time discerning between consonant sounds
✘ You are regularly asking people to repeat themselves or speak more slowly
Concerned about your hearing? Discover the top warning signs to watch out for
Why see a professional for your hearing test?
When you visit an audiologist, you’ll receive a far more comprehensive hearing test than you would online. Not only does an audiologist have a university qualification and advanced training, but they also have access to specialist equipment.
For example, they can provide the correct conditions for an accurate test (i.e. soundproof booth) to establish a baseline measurement of your hearing – the amount of background noise in the average home makes this impossible to do accurately.
The audiologist will also:
- Consider your medical history and any current conditions.
- Physically examine your ears using an otoscope.
- Assess the health of your eardrums and the space behind the eardrums.
- Go beyond hearing loss to help diagnose the cause of frequent ear infections, address balance issues, and remove wax or other foreign bodies from the ear.
- Provide precise diagnosis and treatment.
This can help effectively diagnose and treat any hearing condition that you’re dealing with on the spot, rather than providing incomplete information.
Save time and money with our ‘How Much Does a Hearing Test Cost?’ guide
What are the most common types of hearing test?
Bone conduction testing
Final thoughts: online tests work but with limitations
In short, online tests do have a place as a diagnostic tool, helping you quickly and easily see if your suspicions might be right and if you may have some hearing problems to deal with.
That said, it’s important to think of these online hearing tests as a first step and an imperfect tool: if they flag a problem, this is something that you can certainly follow up on. If not, remember that something could be missing.
Either way, we always recommend that you ultimately schedule an appointment with an audiologist if you suspect any hearing concerns.
Concerned about your hearing? Book an appointment online today.