Take control of your hearing health with these online tools recommended by Dr. Rebecca Lewis, audiologist at Mass. Eye and Ear.
With many known – and unknown – causes to permanent hearing loss, taking steps to promote your hearing health is important.
Since hearing is something our bodies naturally do, it may seem like you are ‘testing’ your hearing all of the time. Unfortunately, this isn’t necessarily true. Because so many things can affect your hearing, from eardrum difficulties to sound processing disorders, different degrees of hearing loss can happen without you even knowing.
“Hearing loss can happen gradually, over many years, which can make it difficult to notice,” said Rebecca Lewis, AuD, PhD, CCC-A, an audiologist at Mass. Eye and Ear. “Checking in on your hearing and being aware of what can cause damage to it can really go a long way.”
Seeing an audiologist regularly to learn more about your own hearing health is the best way to keep your hearing as healthy as possible. However, there are quite a few online tools available as well that can help you stay tuned in to your hearing health today.
Apps to check your hearing
If you are a smart phone or tablet user, there are many applications available that can check your hearing wherever you are.
For example, apps like the Mimi Hearing Test will find the softest sound that you can hear. These apps can give you an idea of your hearing performance and offer the option to look at your hearing over time. Using it over time to track your own hearing or comparing your results with someone else can provide guidance on when to see an audiologist.
Other apps, such as uHear, can help you identify difficulties with understanding speech in noise, which can be an early indication of hearing loss. The user listens to someone speaking at the most comfortable volume and then selects the highest volume of extra background noise that can be tolerated while still following a single person talking.
The trick with these is to make sure you are taking the tests while you can focus in a quiet room and always using the same headphones for the best results.
Online hearing tests and questionnaires
Similar to apps used to check your hearing, there are self-hearing tests available online, such as ReSound, for those using desktop or laptop computers.
In addition to these programs, there are questionnaires available that can give you an idea of your hearing performance or level of hearing loss. For an easy online questionnaire, try out the Better Hearing Institute’s Check Your Hearing feature.
“At home hearing tests and questionnaires are useful for when you want an outside perspective for a suspected hearing loss, especially when it comes to loved ones,” said Dr. Lewis. “They can be introductions to a problem and a good reminder to getting your hearing tested.”
Apps that measure exposure to noise
With sounds all around us, it can be hard to know when something is just too loud – putting your hearing at risk. There are applications available on smart phones and tablets that will measure your exposure to noise (measured in decibels [dB]). Whether you are commuting on the train or at a concert, it’s good to know what level of noise you are exposing yourself to.
Videos on how we hear
Perhaps one of the most diverse set of hearing tools available are online videos. Some videos declare that they test the age of your ears (How Old Are Your Ears? [Hearing Test]) by determining how high of a pitch, or frequency, you can hear, while others teach you about hearing through real life scenarios (Cochlear ‘Does Love Last Forever?’).
“Videos are also a soft introduction to how we hear,” said Dr. Lewis. “You can watch with friends or loved ones to compare between people.”
While these tools do not replace a professional examination or hearing test done in a sound proof booth (an audiogram), they can still provide a type of baseline for you to check your hearing and help your hearing stay healthier for longer.
About our expert
Rebecca M. Lewis, AuD, PhD, CCC-A, is an audiologist and hearing researcher at Mass. Eye and Ear. She sees patients at the main campus (243 Charles Street, Boston).