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How accurate are online hearing tests?

How accurate are online hearing tests?

You may have seen websites offering “free online hearing tests” and thought to yourself: does this really work? There are so many different health tests you can do from the comfort of your own home which provide you with reasonable results. Pregnancy tests, blood pressure tests, and even colon cancer tests have reached the point where you don’t need to see a specialist to get your results. And as time goes on, and medical research advances and innovates, the list of DIY tests continues to grow. But have online hearing tests reached a point where you can rely on their results? Or should you get a comprehensive hearing test instead?

Pros

On average people wait seven years before booking an appointment to assess their hearing loss. You can only imagine how much sooner that would be if there was an online solution that was free and online took minutes. The convenience of an online test is the main benefit and what often draws people in. 

The pros of an online hearing tests is that they’re:

  • Free (a great option for all financial situations)
  • Online (can be completed anywhere)
  • Simple (often very easy to perform on your own)
  • Quick (can be done in a matter of minutes)
  • Discreet (can be done on your own without anyone else knowing)

Cons

Why is it free?

When it comes to any free alternative, you must ask yourself: why? If others are charging you for a service, why is this one free? In terms of online hearing tests, it’s usually to push the user into buying hearing aids. The business will sacrifice payment upfront for their hearing tests, with the hope that the user will buy something after receiving their results. Unfortunately, this can lead to biassed results which will push you into buying something you may not necessarily need. If you are going to choose an online hearing test, we recommend choosing a website with nothing to gain.

Inaccurate results

The amount of testing completed is often limited, which can lead to inaccurate results. Usually the main test they will focus on is the pure-tone air-conduction threshold test, which compares the quietest sounds you can hear through your headphones. This data is important, but it is dependent on your equipment. If your headphones are low quality, or your computer has any sound issues, your results could be completely different.

Limited testing

The lack of testing means that when it comes to an overall assessment of your hearing, they’ve only scratched the surface. A test with a trained audiologist would dive a lot deeper and would also include:

  • Speech/word recognition
  • How well sound moves through your ear canal
  • How well your eardrum moves
  • Comfortable listening levels
  • How your middle ear responds to sudden loud noises
  • …and more

Lack of context

Once these online tests have assessed your hearing, the summary of the results can also be misguided due to lack of context. This means the solution you are offered could be completely different to what you actually need. For example, a buildup of earwax can lead to temporary hearing loss. The solution for this could simply be to get your ears cleaned, but an online test has no way of knowing where you have earwax buildup, and could instead recommend you invest in a much more expensive solution such as hearing aids.

In saying this, there might be some online hearing tests that are detailed and reasonably accurate. But in order for the test to be accurate, it would require more time and effort on your part for a fair analysis, and it is unlikely that it will be free.

Conclusion

While a free online hearing test can be tempting, if you’re looking for accurate results that offer real solutions, you should try a comprehensive hearing test in person instead. The inconvenience is worth it in the long run, and might even save you money from buying hearing aids you don’t need. Unfortunately with free online hearing tests, you often get what you paid for.