Ask the Audiologist

A Hearing Test

It is really not practical to take an on-line hearing test over the Internet. There are too many interfaces that would need to be calibrated. Our test suites and equipment at The Hearing and Speech Center must be periodically calibrated, all the way down to the earphones. The best substitute that we have been able to devise for an on-line Internet hearing test is a series of questions that you may ask yourself.

As you go down the questions, think about how you feel about your answers and admit to yourself if you are having problems. Basically, about 10% of the general population has serious hearing problems (including a third of the people over 65 and three fourths of the people over 75), and the fact that some other people also are having trouble hearing when you do, should not be a comfort to you. The only way to be sure about your hearing is to have it tested by an audiologist using up-to-date and calibrated equipment.

You can print these question out and write your answers down, but really, all you need to do is answer them and think about your answers. Related topics can be found elsewhere at this web site.


Do you prefer to have your spouse (or someone on your staff) make important phone calls for you?
Comment Avoiding using the phone may be an indicator of a hearing loss. Try an amplified phone, perhaps one of those that has a lever for controlling the frequency response as well as the volume.
Do you favor a particular ear for phone calls, even when it might be more convent to use the other ear?
Comment Your ears should be the same. Even people with hearing losses frequently have the same hearing loss in both ears. If you find that you hear better with one ear than the other, it is not normal. However, it could be a simple problem, like too much wax in one ear.
Groups Do you have trouble understanding people who are trying to talk to you at parties or in restaurants?
Do you have difficulty meeting people in noisy situations, like at a bar?
Have you ever been embarrassed about not hearing correctly what was said at a party?
Do you have difficulty understanding, when talking with someone at a party while others are also talking?
Are you able to fully participate in the conversation at dinner parties or at conventions where you are forced to eat dinner with a group of people?
Do you always try to sit next to your spouse at dinner parties because s/he will help you with missed communications or questions?
Comment Problems hearing in group situations like parties or restaurants is a classic indicator of a hearing loss. Damaged ears frequently have trouble separating out desired sounds from unwanted ones. Normal ears are truly amazing. They can pick out conversations that are actually softer than the background noise, even when the noise is other conversations. This ability is frequently missing when you have a hearing loss.
At Home
Do you complain that people mumble?
Do your friends and family complain that you play the TV too loudly?
Do you find that you have arguments with family members that turn out to be misunderstandings?
Do you show up for appointments at the wrong time?
Is your television sound unclear (muddy sounding), even when you turn the volume up higher than others would like it to be?
Do you find yourself denying having a hearing problem?
Do you have difficulty understanding when talking with someone in a quiet environment, like your living room?
Comment Your friends and family probably know if you have a hearing loss. They make allowances for you and put up with your complaints. Ask them, they might tell you.
Meetings Do you watch people's lips instead of their eyes when you are carrying on a private conversation, perhaps an important sales presentation?
Do you ask others about the details of a meeting that you just attended?
Do you often feel tired or stressed during meetings or social situations?
Do you have difficulty understanding the questions asked at a meeting: When you are the speaker and need to answer the question? When someone else is the speaker and seems to have no trouble hearing the question?
Does background noise, such as a view graph projector, seem to cause you more trouble hearing at meetings than it causes the majority of people? Do you try to sit away from such noise makers?
Do you regularly try to sit near the front of the room at meetings? Is it because you sometimes have difficulty hearing?
If you job depends on meetings, don't fail to take action if you do poorly with these questions. Today's hearing aids are nearly invisible and can make a dramatic improvement with your performance in meetings. Some digital signal processing ones (e.g.: Widex Senso) can selectively reduce background noise such as view graph projectors.
Theater Do you have trouble hearing all of what goes on at the theater or in religious services?
Comment Ask about assistive listening devices at the theater or at public meeting places. Most have them and will lend or rent them to you. You could even get your own headset and carry it to the meeting place.
Do you hear background noises when you are in a quiet location? These sometimes sound like insects, or whistles.
Comment There's a whole section at this web site on tinnitus. It usually is an indicator of hearing loss. Damaged nerve cells can radiate signals even when there is no input. (If you burn your finger, it will continue to signal you after you take it off the stove.) You may think that the tinnitus is interfering with your perfectly good hearing... but you can't hear very well through it can you? Either way, you may have a hearing loss.
Ears Hurt
Do your ears hurt after concerts? Do they ever feel deadened for a while after attending a concert? How about after mowing the grass or working in your shop? Do you regularly wear ear plugs in noisy situations?
Comment You may have damaged your hearing, maybe permanently. We like to say that hearing damage is Permanent, Progressive, and ... Preventable. People who are bothered by loud noises more than their friends may be showing symptoms of a hearing loss. Damaged hearing is frequently more sensitive to loud noises. Think about the burned finger example from the previous question.
Can't Hear Sometimes
Can you reliably hear your wrist watch alarm? How about the turn signal clickers in your car? How about that cute little portable alarm clock you got for travel?
Do others leave you out of conversations because you can't hear them as well as they can hear each other?
How about excuses: She's in the other room, of course I can't hear. That restaurant is too noisy, let's don't go there. I don't like parties. I can't understand people with foreign accents. She always mumbles. The audio system in our church doesn't work very well. The meeting was a waste of time because the speaker wouldn't use the microphone.
Do others become annoyed with you because you don't hear them correctly? "Dinner's ready"; "I'm going out to the car and we can go when you're ready"; "I'll meet you at the rear entrance"; "Your dentist's appointment is Monday at 1 PM".
Comment If you gave the wrong answers to this last group of questions, you really didn't need to take the test, did you? Of course you have a hearing loss. Now, do something about it.