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Recently, my wife and I started getting concerned because our eleven year old can never seem to hear us when we are talking to her. At first, we thought that it was just your average case of a kid ignoring her parents when they are telling her to clean her room or eat her vegetables. However, after suffering through several years of hearing “what?” from her, and having to constantly repeat ourselves, we’re starting to think that maybe there’s more to this phenomenon than selective hearing.
This concern led us to set up an appointment for a hearing test. Of course, always on the look-out for new opportunities to seek out and test interesting software, I decided to strike out on the Internet to seek out a free hearing test application that would let me check my daughter’s hearing myself.
Frequency & Volume Tests With Ear Test
Now, I’m a computer geek, not a hearing specialist. So, while I did discover a pretty cool program called Ear Test to conduct the hearing analysis, it did take a little bit of reading up on hearing tests to figure out the most accurate way to do a proper test.
Ear Test is a high-quality application written by Johannes Wallroth of Berlin, Germany. It essentially provides you with a tool that you can use to vary the frequency and volume of sound in order to test the entire range of human hearing.
Please note: Never use this test with the volume turned way up and wearing earphones, as you could actually cause ear damage. Keep the earphones off, and test the sound turned down. Then put on your earphones and test starting out at the lowest volume again. Carefully increase the volumes only slightly until you can just barely hear the frequencies.
Here’s how you can give someone a hearing test using this software. First, have them sit in a chair facing in the other direction, and let them put on earphones connected to the computer.
The first thing you want to do is slide the volume down all the way to “1”, and lower the frequency all the way down as well. If your frequency step is 100 (you can go as low as 10 if you want), then your bottom frequency will be 100Hz. The best way to get started is to turn the volume down to 1, and put the frequency at about 2000 Hz. This lets the person hear a sound at a safe volume. Now, keep lowering the frequency closer to 10 Hz until the person can’t hear the sound anymore.
Select the frequency, press start, and when the person says they can hear the sound in that ear, lower the volume until they can’t hear it anymore. When they can hear it again, click the “I can hear it!” button. This places a marker at that frequency and volume in the graph at the bottom of the window. Go all the way down the scale to 100 Hz or so, and keep going down until they can’t hear the low frequency sound regardless of volume.
Next, put the volume back down to 1 or 2, and go back to where you started at 2000 Hz. Now you’re going to work your way in the other direction, into the higher frequencies. Make sure the volume is set at the lowest level that the person can hear the sound, then increase the frequency. If they can still hear it, click “I can hear it!“
If they can’t, increase the volume by one. If they still can’t, increase by 1 again. When they can hear it, click “I can hear it!” and move on to the next, higher frequency. Once you get to the top end of the frequency range, you’ll find that you have to increase the volume more in order for them to hear anything. This will show up quickly at a certain high frequency and will degrade into the situation where no matter what the volume, they can’t hear anything at all.
Wherever your slider is located at that point, that is the person’s maximum frequency threshold for their hearing.
Don’t forget to perform the test all over again for the other ear so that you have a fairly good profile of how well the person can hear in each ear. The graph below shows my own hearing test results in my left ear. I apparently can hear a bit better in my left ear than I can in my right – the drop-off occurred much earlier in the my right ear.
Once you’re finished getting your frequency/volume hearing profile using the software and you’re not sure what to make of the results, I recommend EarInfo.com as a good place to go to get started understanding your hearing profile. The site has different charts that show you what a typical frequency/Db response looks like.
It also explains what to look for if you have “holes” in your hearing in very specific frequency ranges in that graph. What you really want to see is what my graphs look like above – the ability to hear all frequencies in the middle at a common volume level. Some people lose complete hearing of specific frequencies due to inner-ear damage, so if you see any of those in your own results, that’s all the more reason to get to the doctor quickly and have that looked at.
Give the Ear Test software a shot and let us know what you thought of the software and what you learned about your own hearing in the comments section below.