An online hearing test is a simple, often free tool you can use to test for hearing loss. “The results from an online hearing test can indicate whether you may have hearing loss, but you’ll still want to follow up with a professional,” said Amy Sarow, a practicing doctor of audiology based in Michigan.
While the online hearing test is a great starting point, it is not a comprehensive test and will not detect whether you have an underlying condition that’s causing your hearing loss. For a more comprehensive assessment, audiologists we spoke with recommended getting an in-person hearing test done first to rule out other causes of hearing loss that hearing aids can’t treat, such as a buildup of earwax.
If the results of the online test indicate you have severe or profound hearing loss, you should see an audiologist or hearing care specialist for a more comprehensive evaluation.
Online hearing tests vs. professional in-office tests
During an in-office visit, the hearing specialist or audiologist will perform a pure tone audiometry, which Mayfield Clinic in Cincinnati, Ohio, defines as “a painless, noninvasive hearing test that measures a person’s ability to hear different sounds, pitches, or frequencies.”2
“Online tests can be a good introduction to hearing. The type of device you are using, the volume you have it set at, and the earpieces (or not) you use, can all impact the precision,” said Sarah Lundstrom, AuD, a certified member of the American Academy of Audiology and a member of the Florida Academy of Audiology
Brian Murray, a hearing instrument specialist in Raleigh, North Carolina, noted that audiologists will perform other tests, such as an otoscopy (looking into the ear canal) and bone conduction testing (if there is a problem in the outer or middle ear).
During an in-person test, you’ll enter a sound-calibrated (also known as “soundproof”) room or booth where a series of sounds at varying frequencies are played through headphones into your ears. The doctor performing the test will ask you to identify which frequencies you can hear clearly.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), following the initial test frequency of 1,000 Hz, “the audiologist should test, in order, 2,000, 3,000, 4,000, 6,000, and 8,000 Hz, followed by a retest of 1,000 Hz before testing 500, 250, and 125 Hz.”3
What is an audiogram?
According to the ASHA, an audiogram is “a graph showing the results of a pure-tone hearing test,” which is a hearing test that “helps find the quietest sound you can hear at different pitches or frequencies.”4 It shows the pattern and degree of your hearing loss per ear, as well as your ability to hear low or high pitches.
Some of the companies on this list provide you with a detailed audiogram after taking your assessment.