You may have observed that older people have more difficulty following a conversation in a noisy environment. Most people attribute this problem to being deaf. However, many of these people are not deaf at all, they simply have a decrease in hearing acuity, i.e. their sensitivity to high frequencies decreases. As a result, their ability to discriminate a conversation in a sea of ambient noise becomes poorer.
Listed below are hearing acuity tests and applications for measuring ambient noise levels. As far as testing goes, it's best to do it in a low-noise area with good headphones.
Most people begin to perceive sound from 16 Hz up to 16,000 for younger people and up to 9,000 Hz if you are over 50. As age advances, fewer high frequencies are perceived.
The frequencies of notes on a standard piano range from 27 Hz to 4,186 Hz and those of the human voice from 60 Hz to 1,200 Hz.
Hearing acuity tests
- Frequency test
Tone generator - Click the "Play" button and move the slider to change the frequency. Adjust the volume of your headphones to a comfortable level for 1,000 Hz and then increase the frequency until you can't hear anymore.
Don't turn up the volume, or there is a risk of damaging your equipment or your ears.
It is normal for your acuity to decline as you age. You can compare your results with the average of your loved ones.
This chart shows the average hearing loss as a function of age.
- Noise Discrimination Tests
Speech in Noise Test - Numbers are spoken in a noisy environment of varying degrees. You must be able to indicate them on the keyboard.
Starkey Test - Sounds and words, at what sensitivity do you hear them?
Amplifon Discrimination Test - Conversations in different sound environments, will you be able to answer correctly?
ReSound Hearing Test - Words are spoken in different sound environments of varying intensity. They will need to be identified.
Hearing test apps
These apps are more comprehensive and detailed but none replace the accuracy and quality of tests done with professionally calibrated equipment as the same apps are used on all mobile devices but the quality of microphones and headphones vary, so these tests can give an idea of hearing quality but are not diagnostic tools.
A search on the App Store or Google Play with the words "Hearing test" or "Hearing test" will yield dozens of quality apps. Many will detail for each ear the acuity level for each frequency based on your age. You'll be able to compare whether your hearing abilities are above or below average.
Höra, from the Hearing Foundation, is a good testing app available for free on iOS or Android.
HearWHO, from the World Health Organization (WHO) also provides a fairly standard test.
Noise Level Measurement Apps
These apps are great for comparing different noise environments. Because the results are dependent on the quality of the microphones in the devices, they are not considered scientific measurements on calibrated devices but they can help identify when too much is too much, especially in a classroom.
A search on the App Store or Google Play with the words "sound level meter" or "decibel" will turn up dozens. Some are even designed specifically for classroom management.
For example, Bouncyballs is available right on your computer and can effectively replace a screen saver when the computer is not being used in class.
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