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What is the Difference in a Hearing Test and an Online Screening?

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When browsing online or looking at videos, you may have noticed that there are several online hearing screenings now available across the internet. At first glance, these online hearing tests may appear to be very tempting. They are quick, simple, and can be done from the comfort of your own home using your computer.

If you have been tempted to try one of these online screenings, here’s what you need to know about the process and results that these screenings can provide.

How do online hearing screenings work?

There is no single approach for hearing screenings; there are many different formats available, and some are more in-depth than others.

However, most screenings tend to follow a similar premise. The screening will usually begin by asking for the age and gender of the person completing the test, and there may also be a short questionnaire to complete. After this, the hearing screening itself begins: a series of sounds, at different frequencies, are usually played, and then the respondent is asked if they can hear each sound. In some more advanced versions, the volume of the sound can be adjusted using a slider until it can be heard clearly. 

Most screenings are very short, lasting around five minutes, and usually, conclude by displaying a “pass” or “fail.” 

What do online screening results mean?

If the respondent “passes” an online hearing screening, then this means that the testing has determined that the respondent can hear the level of sounds they should be able to hear for their age group. 

If they receive a “fail,” then the results will usually advise seeking further advice from an audiologist.

However, these results are not necessarily representative of a person’s true hearing abilities. Online screenings can only judge whether the person undergoing the screening has passed or failed a very basic evaluation of their hearing, not their overall ability to hear. 

Can an online screening diagnose hearing loss?

No. Online screenings are very basic, and diagnosing hearing loss requires substantial investigation into several different aspects of hearing health. 

When audiologists test hearing, they use a range of scientific tests and instruments to gain a complete insight into your overall hearing health. Audiologists can, for example, determine the type of hearing loss a person may be experiencing, or if a person has hearing loss in just one ear. In addition, audiologists can also assess general ear health, provide valuable guidance on hearing protection, and assist people with hearing loss treatment and hearing aids. 

As a result, there is simply no substitute for visiting an audiologist when it comes to diagnosing hearing loss or monitoring your overall hearing health. Online screenings have a novelty factor and may encourage people to think about their hearing health, but they are not a replacement for a thorough, professional hearing examination. 

If you suspect you may be experiencing hearing loss or are due for an annual review, then online hearing screenings are usually best avoided. Instead, arrange an appointment with a qualified audiologist, who will be able to administer a variety of tests and assist you with any hearing-related needs you may be experiencing.