How to Detect Hearing Loss

The Gold Standard Hearing Test:

An audiogram tests to find the softest volume a person can consistently (at least 2 out of every 3 times) hear pure tones of a specific range of frequencies, in both ears. A “comprehensive audiogram” also includes speech testing in which the patient repeats back the words presented to them (or points to an image corresponding to the word). It also determines the type of hearing loss the person has – conductive, sensorineural (nerve) or both (mixed).

Speech-in-Noise Testing:

One thing a standard hearing test does not evaluate, is how well we understand speech in the presence of background noise. There are a variety of tests to measure this but they are typically only done as part of evaluation for a cochlear implant, auditory processing abilities, or with hearing aids. Speech-in-noise testing usually provides very useful information about how the person actually hears in the real world, not just if they can hear soft beeps or understand words in absolute quiet.

Hearing Test Apps:

These are not as good as an audiogram. They also can not determine if your hearing loss is due to a conduction or sensorineural hearing problem. However, they offer the user a quick, easy screening tool. I think you should try one or both of the ones I list below if you are curious, if you are not ready to schedule an appointment with an audiologist. Keep in mind app results may not be incredibly accurate, but are at least more likely to say something is worth getting checked out by a professional than to say your hearing is in the normal range when it is not. These apps are not meant to be used by young children.

My favorites apps:

  • Mimi Test
    • It checks background noise levels, confirms right and left ear, and uses a decent method of evaluating threshold.
    • They created hearing loss norms for age groups. This inaccurately portrays all hearing loss as age-related – what if you just have too much wax in your ears?! It also suggests that there are agreed upon norms for hearing loss with age, which there are not. Ignore the norms and focus on the results, if its outside the normal range, or if you have a difference between your ears and/or other symptoms like pain, pressure, or ringing in your ears, get a test by an audiologist.
  • uHear
    • Has better recommendations for follow up compared to the Mimi Test.

Tips for using these apps:

  • Use headphones and make sure the right and left sided channels are on/in the correct ear.
  • Find a quiet spot that will remain really quiet for 5-15 minutes.

Phone Hearing Test:

While not an app, per se, the National Hearing Test is a speech-in-noise screening test you can take over the telephone. You listen to three-digit sequences presented in a background of white noise and then enter the digits using the telephone keypad. If you are doing well, the test becomes more difficult by making it harder to hear the digits. If you are making errors, the test gets easier. Immediately after the test, you are told the results for each ear, which will help you to make a more informed decision as to whether you should see an audiologist to have a complete hearing evaluation. It costs only $8 to take (free for AARP members). You simply call from a telephone and enter your Access Code to start the test.

Find an audiologist: