Improving hearing tests: no more beeping

RESEARCH

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A team of researchers in Melbourne, Australia, has developed a new hearing test aimed at replacing the traditional audiogram. They hope that the new test will help to bring in more people to evaluate their hearing. According to the researchers, the traditional test has become a barrier to people who would benefit from a hearing aid but who do nothing about it.

The idea behind the new Speech Perception Test is that the traditional method has a major flaw in that it does not directly measure how people hear and understand speech. As a result, the team decided to use the spoken word instead of the pure tones used in conventional hearing assessments. "Our test comprises 50 English words presented to both ears in a quiet environment. Each word has a consonant-vowel-consonant structure, and the lists are phonetically balanced, with the proportions of each vowel and consonant being close to the proportions found in the English language in general. There are billions of test variations and it provides more relevant information than a traditional test,” says Professor Peter Blamey, Chairman of Blamey Saunders Hears and Deputy Director of the Bionics Institute. The test provides an easily interpretable chart indicating exactly what sounds and parts of words the person is picking up and what they are missing.

Another advantage highlighted by the team is that limited infrastructure is needed to give the test. This could help to improve hearing in remote communities and in developing countries. Blamey Saunders Hears is making the new test available online so that anyone who wants to rate their hearing ability can have easy access to it.

Audiology Australia Media Statement

After publication of the above article on the Audiology World News site, Audiology Australia wishes to add the following statement, which we are happy to publish.

Media Statement on New Hearing Test

Audiology Australia is concerned that members of the public may be misled by a recent media announcement regarding an online hearing test that uses real words and not tones. The announcement infers that the use of speech test materials to test hearing is a new innovation.

To set the record straight, use of speech materials in audiological testing has been an essential component of hearing assessments and hearing aid fitting for many years. Far from being a novel idea, the use of speech test materials is considered standard in any reasonable assessment of hearing. However, and more important, the assessment of hearing, and proper fitting of a hearing aid, requires a comprehensive case history and a battery of tests to establish the communication needs of the individual client. It is not possible to rely on responses to tones or beeps alone. Some types of hearing loss can be treated medically and it is essential to determine this so that referral for medical/ENT follow up can be arranged. Should hearing aids be recommended, this detailed information is necessary for proper fitting of a device.

Audiology Australia is concerned that consumers may put themselves at medical risk by selfdiagnosing their own hearing. We strongly advocate that it is essential to have a comprehensive assessment of hearing prior to the fitting of any hearing device, including hearing aids, and that this should be carried out by a professional audiologist.

Louise Hickson

President, Audiology Australia

Updated: 11 February 2014

Source: MedicalXpress

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