Purpose: The purpose of this study is to evaluate smartphone-based self-hearing test applications (apps) for accuracy in threshold assessment and validity in screening for hearing loss across frequencies and earphone transducer styles.
Method: Twenty-two adult participants (10 = normal hearing; 12 = sensorineural hearing loss; n = 44 ears) underwent conventional audiometry and performed 6 self-administered hearing tests using two iPhone-based apps (App 1 = uHear [Version 2.0.2, Unitron]; App 2 = uHearingTest [Version 1.0.3, WooFu Tech, LLC.]) each with 3 different transducers (earbud earphones, supra-aural headphones, circumaural headphones). Hearing sensitivity results using the smartphone apps across frequencies and transducers were compared with conventional audiometry.
Results: Differences in accuracy were revealed between the hearing test apps across frequencies and earphone styles. The uHear app using the iPhone standard EarPod earbud earphones was accurate to conventional thresholds (p > .002 with Bonferroni correction) at 1000, 2000, 4000, and 6000 Hz and found valid (81%-100% sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values) for screening mild or greater hearing loss (> 25 dB HL) at 500, 1000, 2000, 4000, and 6000 Hz. The uHearingTest app was accurate in threshold assessment and determined valid for screening mild or greater hearing loss (> 25 dB HL) using supra-aural headphones at 2000, 4000, and 8000 Hz.
Conclusions: Self-hearing test apps can be accurate in hearing threshold assessment and screening for mild or greater hearing loss (> 25 dB HL) when using appropriate transducers. To ensure accuracy, manufacturers should specify earphone model instructions to users of smartphone-based self-hearing test apps.