If you have trouble hearing conversations, miss dialogue at the movies, find yourself boosting the volume on your cell phone or blasting the TV-or just tend to say “what?” or “huh?” a lot-you may already know (or suspect) that you have some hearing loss. If you want to test your hearing, one easy way is the National Hearing Test (NHT), which is considered a reliable screening test for hearing loss.
The test has been available in the U.S. since 2013, but versions have been used for many years in countries such as the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Poland, Germany, France, Switzerland, and Australia. The American version is based on the Dutch test and was developed by researchers associated with Indiana University and Indiana-based Communication Disorders Technology (a software development company), with funding from the National Institutes of Health.
The NHT is done over the telephone and involves listening to a series of numbers spoken against a staticky background, simulating the attempt to discern speech in a noisy room. (In contrast, standard hearing tests, administered by audiologists, involve wearing headphones that play a variety of sounds, including hums, buzzing, and beeps, as well as the kind of speech discrimination testing done by the NHT.) The NHT can detect the most common type of hearing loss, presbycusis, which affects the hearing part of the inner ear called the cochlea and is common among older people. It cannot detect hearing loss as a result of a problem in the middle ear or ear canal.
The NHT costs $5 (free for AARP members), takes 10 minutes, and must be done on a landline in a quiet room. After you’ve paid online, you get a personalized code to access the test. After you’ve completed the test, a recorded voice gives you the results for each ear as within normal limits, slightly below normal limits, or substantially below normal limits. If your hearing falls into the two latter categories, you’re advised to consult a hearing professional.
The test was validated by a study done at Veterans Affairs centers and published in the Journal of the American Academy of Audiology in 2014. It found that the results correlated well with gold-standard hearing tests. About 80 percent of people who take the test are found to have below-normal hearing and are advised to seek professional assessment. That’s not surprising, since those who take the test usually suspect they have hearing problems.
Go to NationalHearingTest.org for more information, or call 844-459-0569.