Research indicates that people wait an average of 10 years to test their hearing after they suspect hearing loss.
I can relate. I became aware of my hearing loss more than a decade before I finally tested my hearing at a local clinic. I wasn't ready to take on the whole process, and I didn't yet realize that online hearing tests can be quick, accurate, and free.
Since my discovery, I've encouraged everyone to try an online hearing test. As I see it, knowledge is power, and the entire process takes just a few minutes.
But what about those who don't go online?
In 2021, Pew Research Center reported that 25% of adults ages 65 and older never go online. MDHearing saw the same research and decided to do something about it.
The brand recently launched a hearing test you can take by dialing (833) 635-0016. The test doesn't give frequency-based results and certainly doesn't replace a trip to an audiologist, but it does offer another starting point to the hearing health process. I was intrigued, so I sat down with MDHearing CEO Doug Breaker and head of audiology Sandra Porps, AuD to learn more. Our full interview is below:
Interview with Sandra Porps, AuD
Q: Can you share some of the inspiration and thought that brought you and your team to create your hearing test over the phone?
Sandra Porps, AuD: Our goal is to help people hear better, and we know that obtaining a hearing test is an important first step. We also know that step is not easy for a lot of people. While online hearing tests are wonderful, and we have a great one, they are not accessible for some people. Our phone test was created to help fill that gap.
Doug Breaker: If we look at our call data, we still get a fair amount of phone calls from landlines, and many of our customers do not have a computer. After we launched the test, we looked at the data over 13,000 phone screening tests taken, and 31% used a landline. We wanted to give everyone a free, easy way to understand if they might have hearing loss. We used European phone screening tests and the research behind The National Hearing Test as inspiration.
Q: How did you go about it creating the test?
Sandra Porps, AuD: Our phone hearing test is based on this research which concludes phone hearing tests provide efficient, easy to use, and valid screening for functional hearing impairment. We tried to make the test as easy and fast as possible while maintaining a high level of accuracy.
Doug Breaker: In addition to the research, we extensively tested the test internally and with friends and family before launching it, and compared the results to traditional hearing tests.
Q: Let's talk accuracy. What can test takers expect?
Sandra Porps, AuD: The test itself plays a series of 3 spoken numbers from zero to ten. The number seven is excluded because it is two syllables. While the numbers are spoken, background noise is also present. The user enters the number they heard into the phone. If they enter the numbers correctly, the background noise increases. If they enter the numbers incorrectly, the background noise decreases. Being that we control the level of noise in relation to the level of spoken numbers, the speaker variance does not matter.
Our phone test is a hearing screening. It does not tell you frequency or pitch-specific information, but it does measure the possible severity of a hearing loss. For example, if no signs of hearing loss are noted or if the user has a possible moderate or significant hearing loss. Since we have removed the speaker variance and speech in noise tests have been proven to be a very accurate way to assess the overall hearing level, our phone test is very accurate.
Q: Once someone takes your free phone hearing test, how do they get their results?
Sandra Porps, AuD: Users get their results immediately after taking the hearing test. If they would like to view their results online, they can either have a link texted to them or they can get a secret code over the phone, which will give them access to their online results.
Q: Any final thoughts you'd like to add?
Doug Breaker: MDHearing's mission is to provide affordable hearing health care to as many people as possible. Step one in that journey is to understand if you may have hearing loss. We think our free phone screening test is a quick, simple, and easy way to understand if you may be suffering from hearing loss. Anyone with a phone can take it and get results within 10 minutes.