May 18, 2014

Hearing Test Administered Over the Phone

I was just made aware of this service in a Washington Post article published May 16, 2014. This screening hearing test is taken over the telephone and accomplished by listening to three-digit sequences presented in a background of white noise. The test-taker has to then enter the digits using the telephone keypad. Based on accuracy of the response, the test than adjusts the next query.

Normally, the cost to take this telephone hearing test is $8, but at least for the month of May 2014, it is free in celebration of "Better Hearing and Speech Month."

Here's how to take the test by phone:
  1. Find a quiet place to take the test that is free from distractions. 
  2. If you hang up in the middle of your test, you will have to start from the beginning. 
  3. Use a telephone that plugs into a wall-mounted jack. Please do not use a cell phone. 
  4. Dial our toll-free number: 1-866-223-7575 
  5. Listen to the recorded instructions. 
  6. At the end of the test, write down your test results for each ear and the date. The categories are: 
Within the Normal Range
Slightly Below the Normal Range

Further details of this test can be found here, but the test essentially is based on the speech-to-noise ratio (SNR) that is adjusted using an adaptive procedure seeking a threshold for 50% correct identification of the digit sequences. A set of 25 sequences provides a reliable SNR threshold in about four minutes of testing per ear. This method of testing is different from most hearing tests in that it uses digits in static noise, rather than pure tones. Because the test measures an SNR threshold rather than one based on the absolute level of tones, a reliable screening measure of hearing, despite the differences in sound levels produced by different telephones, can be achieved.

Of note, this method of testing was validated in Europe by scientists at VU University Medical Center in the Netherlands in 2004. The U.S. version began in 2008 with funding from the National Institute of Health and was validated in two studies performed at the Indiana University Hearing Clinic and the other in collaboration with clinics administered by the VA Health System.

If hearing is assessed to be abnormal, you can contact our office to undergo a more sophisticated hearing test for confirmation and next steps.

Take this hearing test right now. I did, and the results were disturbing. Washington Post 5/16/14.
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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