You can do everything online now. From banking to ordering groceries to video chatting with your grandson.
When they say, “there’s an app for that,” it’s no joke. If you can think it up, someone has probably already created a website tool that can do it.
But can you really do anything online now? You know better.
An online hearing screening might help you determine whether you need to see a hearing specialist, but it should never replace an in-person evaluation, especially for fitting hearing aids.
Let’s look at why!
You’re Not in a Controlled Setting
Hearing tests work best in a place where there is 0 background noise. Otherwise, the test will be incorrect. For example, you might be able to hear a very faint tone in a room that’s perfectly quiet. But something as quiet as an air conditioner vent can hide the sound from your ear.
Online hearing tests advise you to sit in a quiet room. Turn off the TV, fans, and anything that’s making any kind of noise.
This is sound advice in theory. But it doesn’t work in practice. It’s not possible to completely eliminate sound in a home environment. All appliances in your home make a sound. Traffic outside, the wind, birds, neighbors – they all make a sound, however faint. When all else is eliminated, even your breath becomes pronounced.
You need special equipment to eliminate the effects of this background noise. Audiologists, ENTs, and HIS (Hearing Instrument Specialist) have invested in this equipment.
Only they can get an accurate reading.
They’re Not Calibrated
Online hearing tests rely on your own speakers to transmit the tones. The problem is that there is no single standard for speakers.
You’ve probably noticed this. A level 15 on the TV isn’t the same as level 15 on your computer, stereo, or other devices.
Audiometers, the kind you can only use in a doctor’s office, are calibrated to meet federal standards. On these devices, a 15 is always 15. It’s never anything else.
Because of that, 15 means something.
You’re Not Getting a Usable Reading
An inaccurate and uncalibrated reading isn’t usable for fitting hearing aids. It might tell you whether you need an appointment, but it won’t tell you whether you have hearing loss or what frequencies you’re struggling to hear. An in-person visit not only checks whether you can hear tones and frequencies, but it also checks for other issues such as whether your ears are clogged with earwax.
These websites will tell you that they can fit you with a hearing device that meets your specific needs as a result of the test, but it’s not.
You May End Up with a Poor Hearing Experience
In many cases, people purchase costly hearing aids based on the results when they didn’t really have hearing loss. Or their hearing loss was much less severe than the test suggested. That’s a huge waste of money. When you compare this expense to the relatively low cost of a visit to your local hearing specialist, this is sad.
Because the hearing aid is not programmed to meet the unique hearing profile of the patient, the hearing experience is often unpleasant. People with poorly fitted hearing aids don’t wear them.
If you would benefit from a hearing aid but don’t wear it, you’re missing out. You’ll think hearing aids don’t work, when in fact, you have the wrong solution for your particular hearing loss.
In other instances, a more affordable sound amplification device is sold to the person. It looks like a hearing aid, but it’s not a hearing aid. It only makes sounds louder. If you have hearing loss, you don’t just need sound to be louder. You need it to be more precise and easier to understand. You need specific frequencies amplified. That’s what you get with a properly-fitted hearing aid.
Online Tests Aren’t Intended to Replace In-Person Hearing Tests
You’ll see very reputable companies offering these tests. That makes them seem like a legitimate replacement for a scheduled hearing test.
But these tests should be used for informational-use only. Reputable companies will tell you that. Others will not. Buyer beware – before you invest in a hearing aid, work with someone who has the right equipment to properly fit it.