Introducing Benefits and Burdens of Mainstream Hearing Tests

Alternatives to the classic hearing test

There are many different types of hearing tests for adults and all of them measure the sensitivity of a person’s sense of hearing in different frequencies. The way this is done is by using an audiometer, the results of this test will then be shown in an audiogram.

Picture a dark room where you will be presented different barely-visible light sources which you have to identify. Instead of distinguishing forms or letters, you hardly recognize what you are seeing. Even though this method sounds contradictory, since you should be tested on what you can see, it’s no different from how your audiologist measures your hearing: in a silent room with tones you barely perceive. What you hear and how fast you are able to recognize sounds will then be shown in the audiogram. Of course, this kind of test is far from a normal listening situation. It is conceived to show which hearing frequencies you perceive well and which you do not – basically, all the audiogram tells you is what you cannot hear, respectively the threshold you perceive sounds in.

Unfortunately, audiograms often get complex rather quickly, making it hard for the average person to interpret them. Most audiograms show two graphs, one for each ear, which move in a space within a vertical and a horizontal axis. The vertical axis of the audiogram usually represents sound volume or intensity measured in Decibel (dB), whereas the horizontal axis represents sound frequency or pitch, which is measured in Hertz (Hz). Hence, the resulting graphs of the audiogram gives a detailed visual depiction of your hearing ability. Getting ahold of your picture, however, is not always an easy task.

 

The Downside of Classic Hearing Tests

 

Most of the time, in order to be tested for your hearing, you will need to schedule an appointment with your audiologist, possibly having to wait for a few weeks, and then spending only about 5-10 minutes for the actual hearing test. Plus of course the time you have to wait at the audiologist and the travel time between your house and the audiologist’s office. Additionally, depending on your insurance and country of origin, you might also face charges for the hearing test up to $250.

As a matter of fact, not everybody visiting an audiologist due to hearing problems suffers from long term hearing loss. Sometimes hearing loss is temporary and reversible, especially when it occurs after being in a noisy environment for an extended period or after encountering a sudden, extraordinarily loud sound. For example, if you attend a loud festival or concert for a few hours, it might be that you hear your environment less loud than usual or that you have a high-pitched sound in your ears afterwards. Generally, each of the previously mentioned examples of hearing loss clear up by themselves without long term consequences. However, the average person is not necessarily aware of those special and non-permanent cases of hearing impairment, hence, they may want to make sure that it is nothing serious by taking a hearing test accepting the downsides that come with it.

As mentioned in one of our previous articles, around 20% of the US population have some degree of hearing loss. That’s about 48 million people – just in the US. Despite so many people suffering from different degrees of hearing loss, accepting these inconveniences is still the most common way to have your hearing measured. We feel this is inefficient.

 

An alternative Approach

 

If you think about those obvious obstacles when trying to evaluate your hearing profile, questions emerge. How long does a hearing test actually take? Isn’t there a free hearing test near me?

At Bragi, we are convinced that having your hearing tested should be easily accessible, budget-friendly and simple. In order to achieve this, we teamed up with the hearing scientists from Mimi Hearing Technologies. Together with Mimi’s hearing scientists, we have integrated hearing test algorithms into our hardware and combined them with Bragi’s in-ear computing technology to enable an easy and quick-to access on-device hearing test.

With Project Ears, you will be able to test your hearing and enhance it – all through one device, it will be possible for people to have their hearing measured while saving the time of visiting an audiologist. In addition, as your hearing changes over time, as it does for most of us, you will not need to see the hearing specialist to re-evaluate your hearing profile – you can simply re-calibrate your device to match your new hearing needs. Thanks to the technology behind it, your device will program itself to fit your specific hearing needs and adjust sounds accordingly, making it a unique listening experience optimized for you and a first of its kind.

 

Audiogram Picture by Jason Garber 

In collaboration with the hearing scientists at Mimi Hearing Technologies

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Lukas Bielmeier

Hi, I'm Lukas! Editor of the Project Ears Blog and sharing Bragi's vision of a truly wireless and enabled future for everybody.

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