Internet Hearing Evaluations: Beware!
Although a hearing test performed in the comfort of your own home may seem like a viable alternative to making an appointment to see an audiologist, online hearing tests are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (the federal agency that is responsible for ensuring medial devices and equipment are approved for use). Results obtained from an online hearing test are unlikely to be accurate or reliable. A face-to-face examination with an audiologist is the best practice for diagnosing and assessing your hearing healthcare needs. Listed below are components of an examination that require in-person assessment to ensure accurate diagnosis.
At your appointment, the audiologist will ask many questions about your past and recent medical history, with special attention given to your hearing difficulties. Physical conditions and medications can affect your hearing and should be documented in your chart. Documentation of any balance problems, noise exposure and tinnitus are also important in your overall care. Most online hearing tests will not assess any medical conditions that may be contributing to your hearing loss.
An otoscope is a lighted, magnifying device used to assess your ears to determine if obstruction, such as earwax, is present in the ear canal. Drainage or possible infections can also be inspected during otoscopy. This critical part of the evaluation is not possible during an online hearing test.
Equipment required for hearing tests:
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has published guidelines that outline the amount of acceptable level of ambient room noise that is allowed for an accurate hearing test. When having a hearing test performed by an audiologist, a sound booth is used to ensure ANSI standards are met. Hearing tests performed at home are subjected to background noise beyond control, such as noise from traffic, computer monitors and air conditioners. This background noise may skew results obtained during at home testing and elevate your hearing levels.
There are also standards for the headphones used for hearing tests. At home testing will show various results when different types of headphones are used. In office, headphones are calibrated specifically to the audiometer used for testing.
When testing is completed at home, only one part of your auditory system is checked. Further testing is required (through use of additional head pieces and tests) to determine the type of hearing loss you may have. A visit with an audiologist is necessary to accurately diagnosis the type and degree of your hearing loss.
If you are in need of an accurate hearing evaluation, please contact The Hearing Center at Jacksonville Hearing and Balance Institute to schedule an appointment with one of our Board Certified Audiologists!