Dear Savvy Senior: Can you recommend any good online hearing tests? My husband has hearing loss, but I can’t get him to go in and get his hearing checked. I thought a simple online test could help him recognize he has a problem. What can you tell me? — Loud-talking Linda
Dear Linda: There’s actually a growing number of very good online and app-based hearing tests available that will let your husband check his hearing on his own. These tests are a quick and convenient option for the millions of Americans who have mild to moderate hearing loss but often ignore it, or don’t want to go through the hassle or expense of visiting an audiologist for a hearing exam.
Who should test?
Hearing loss for most people develops gradually over many years of wear and tear, which is the reason many people don’t realize they actually have a hearing problem.
Anyone who has difficulty hearing or understanding what people say, especially in noisier environments or over the phone, should consider a test. Or, if a person needs a higher volume of music or television than other people, they might take a few minutes to test their hearing.
Online and app-based hearing tests can serve as a great screening tool. They are not meant to be a diagnosis, but rather to give you an idea of how bad your hearing loss is and what can be done about it.
For most do-it-yourself hearing tests, you’ll be advised to wear on-ear headphones or earbuds and sit in a quiet spot.
You also need to know that there are two different type of tests available. One type is known as pure-tone testing, where tones are played in decreasing volumes to determine your specific level of hearing loss.
The other type is known as speech-in-noise or digits-in-noise (DIN), where you’ll be asked to identify words, numbers or phrases amid background noise.
Tests to consider
If your husband uses a smartphone or tablet, two of my favorite app-based hearing tests are the hearWHO app created by the World Health Organization and the Mimi Hearing Test app. Both are free to use and are available through the App Store and Google Play.
HearWHO allows users to check their hearing status and monitor it over time using a DIN test, while Mimi uses pure-tone and masked threshold tests (noise in the opposite ear while testing one ear) to give you a detailed picture of your hearing abilities.
There are also a wide variety of online hearing tests your husband can take on a computer.
Some top online tests — all offered by hearing aid manufacturers — for speech-in-noise or DIN tests can be accessed at ReSound (resound.com/en-us/online-hearing-test) and Miracle Ear (miracle-ear.com/online-hearing-test).
And some good online hearing tests for pure-tone testing are available by Signia (signia.net/en/service/hearing-test); Ergo (eargo.com/hearing-health/hearing-check); and MD Hearing Aid (mdhearingaid.com/hearing-test).
All of these hearing tests are completely free to use and take less than five minutes to complete.
What to do with results
If the tests indicate your husband has hearing loss, it’s best to think of that as a starting point. He should take the results to his doctor or an audiologist for further evaluation.
Many insurance providers and Medicare Advantage plans cover routine hearing exams; however, original Medicare does not.
If his hearing loss is mild to moderate, he should look into the new over-the-counter hearing aids, which are available this fall online and at retailers such as Best Buy, Walgreens and CVS.
Over-the-counter hearing aids don’t require a prescription or medical exam for purchase, and they’re much cheaper than traditional hearing aids you buy through an audiologist or a licensed hearing instrument specialist.
Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.