I’ve had a hearing problem the past few months. I’ve had a few visits to an ENT specialist (Ear Nose and Throat) who said that the home hearing test I was doing was unreliable. I thought I’d test some of the offering and compare them with my specialist tests.
Despite the audiologists and doctors looking down on the home hearing tests, it seems you can actually get reasonable results. Of course they will not be as accurate as a professional test, but I was surprised at how good a home test can be.
First, here is my official audiogram:
It’s measuring the hearing at different frequencies.
On the left are the low frequencies. On the right are the high.
125 is low. (Like a thunder rumble or a low bass guitar)
8k is high (like a drum cymbal or a life and fork clattering)
Speech is in the middle, men at 500, women at 1k.
The height is the amount of hearing. If it’s up at 0 you have perfect hearing of those sounds. If it’s under 90dB you have no hearing.
My left ear (blue) is fairly good ,with some slight frequency loss up high. (-20dB is mild).
My right ear (red) is down about -60dB for everything low. Let me tell you this is bad. If I listen to a song I can’t hear the bass guitar at all. And my ear is ringing at those frequencies. It’s a problem!
So how do the DIY hearing tests go at picking this up? Firstly let’s compare some different apps so see how similar the results were to the official one.
These are in no order other than the order I tried them. I only tried free ones.
This is an iPhone and iPad app called audiogram. You can run the iPhone app on your OS X iMac or MacBook. The results are pretty good!
The main problem is that the headphone are not calibrated, so the actual values are not right, especially at the higher frequencies. But relative to each other the values are spot on.
In the official test, at 125 Hz the difference between my right and left ears was 50dB. mIn the audiogram software at 125Hz the difference between right and left ears my ears was also 50dB.
At 500Hz the difference was 50dB (official) and 60dB (Audiogram).
At 1khz the difference was 30dB (official) and 40dB (Audiogram).
At 2kHz the difference was 30dB (official) and 25dB (Audiogram).
They are not perfect, but they certainly match the shape and show the problem in my hearing. The similarities in the images says it all really.
2. Check your Hearing
Here’s a different app. It’s called ‘Check your Hearing’
The values are all moved down a bit (it depends on where your volume level is set) but the overall shape is similar. It shows the loss of hearing in my right (red) ear at low frequencies compared to the blue.
This is an iPhone app called Mimi, again very similar results. It shows the loss for hearing in my right ear and the slight roll off of high frequencies in my left. Mimi was by far the easiest to use. It was kind of fun!
Now that I had tried 3 different hearing apps, I thought I’d try different headphones using the same app to see if the quality of the headphones makes a difference. The following tests were all done with Audiogram, but with different headphones.
Bose Quietcomfort 15
This is the same graph as the first one above.
Next I tried my Sony ?WH-1000XM4 bluetooth headphones (using the iPad app vis bluetooth).
Apple wired earbuds
Next I tried the cheap wired earplugs that come free with an iPhone:
These are definitely lacking in the bass, you can see in my good ear (blue) the bass rolls of at 125Hz. But my right ear goes even lower, so it still shows the loss in my right ear. It has the right shape and shows the loss of hearing in my right ear.
Given that these cheap in ears did OK I wondered how it would go just using the speakers on my laptop. (Yes this is a real hack I know!)
Wow – pretty good! ha ha.
Fo this test I just played the sound out of my computer. (a 14 inch macboook pro about 12 inches away from my head).
When I was testing my right ear I blocked by left ear with my finger. (I’m serious!) When I was testing my left ear I blocked my right ear with my finger. The results are actually pretty good. They show the loss in my right ear very clearly.
The at home hearing tests are not a professionally calibrated test, but they certainly pick up major differences between your ears.
All the apps seemed to work well.
Audiogram was the fastest.
Check my hearing gave more details.
Mimi was the easiest and I would recommend it as the simplest one to use.
The better headphones give more accurate the results.
If the app developers worked to calibrate their tests with different brands of headphones I believe they could achieve spectacular results. But for now they appear to be a rough but reasonable way of testing your hearing.
If you were to use the same software, and the same headphones, with the same volume setting, you would be able to perform a relative test and notice any change in your hearing over time.