There are a growing number of very good online and app-based hearing tests available that will allow you or a loved one check their hearing on their own. These tests are a quick and convenient option for the millions of Americans that have mild to moderate hearing loss but often ignore it, or don’t want to go through the hassle or expense of visiting an audiologist for a hearing exam.
Who Should Test?
Hearing loss for most people develops gradually over many years of wear and tear, which is the reason many people don’t realize they have a hearing problem.
Anyone who has difficulty hearing or understanding what people say, especially in noisier environments or over the phone. Or, if you need a higher volume of music or TV than other people, should take a few minutes to test their hearing.
Online and app-based hearing tests can serve as a great screening tool. They are not meant to be a diagnosis, but rather to give you an idea of how bad your hearing loss is and what can be done about it.
For most do-it-yourself hearing tests, you’ll be advised to wear ear headphones or earbuds and sit in a quiet spot. You also need to know that there are two different type of tests available. One type is known as pure-tone testing, where tones are played in decreasing volumes to determine your specific level of hearing loss. And the other type is known as speech-in-noise or digits-in-noise (DIN) where you’ll be asked to identify words, numbers, or phrases amid background noise.
Where to Test
If you use a smartphone or tablet, two of my favorite app-based hearing tests are the hearWHO app created by the World Health Organization, and the Mimi Hearing Test app. Both apps are free to use and are available through the App Store and Google Play.
HearWHO allows users to check their hearing status and monitor it over time using a DIN test, while Mimi uses pure-tone and masked threshold tests to give you a detailed picture of your hearing abilities.
There are also a wide variety of online hearing tests you can take on a computer. Some top online tests – all offered by hearing aid manufacturers – for speech-in-noise or DIN tests can be accessed at ReSound and Mircle Ear. And some good online hearing tests for pure-tone testing are available by Signia, Eargo, and MD Hearing Aid. All these hearing tests are completely free to use and take less than five minutes to complete.
What to do With Results
If the tests indicate you have hearing loss, it’s best to think of that as a starting point. You should take results to your doctor or an audiologist for further evaluation. Many insurance providers and Medicare Advantage plans cover routine hearing exams, however original Medicare does not.
If your hearing loss is mild to moderate, you should look into the new over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids, which are starting to become available online and at retailers like Best Buy, Walgreens and CVS.
OTC hearing aids don’t require a prescription or medical examination for purchase and they’re much more affordable than traditional hearing aids you buy through an audiologist or a licensed hearing instrument specialist.
Jim Miller publishes the Savvy Senior, a nationally syndicated column that offers advice for Boomers and Seniors.