Hearing Tests

I am wondering about the accuracy of online hearing tests. As we get older our ability to hear high frequency sounds is supposed to gradually decline. I imagine this is true for the vast majority of people. But my mother was nearly 100 when she passed away and her hearing was so acute that the nurses in the hospital were dumbfounded when my mother recounted the content of a conversation nearly-whispered between two nurses in the next room.

Since I am well into my 60s now I was concerned whether I have lost a significant amount of my hearing capacity. It seems to me that I can still hear the finest nuances from my system but you don't know what you are not hearing. But since I have always protected my ears from loud sounds of any kind I thought that maybe I could dodge the bullet. So, I took 3 online hearing tests and they came out just about smack on with the same results, which I was happy to see. The results said I have excellent hearing.

Here are the links to the 3 tests I used to test my hearing:




Of course, online tests are not the same as having your hearing tested in a doctor's office. But do they have validity? And, if so, to what extent are they valid? I wish I could find the recent Audiogon thread where someone stated with authority that no one over a certain age (I can't remember the age mentioned) can actually hear above a frequency of 10,000 or 12,000 Hertz (I cannot remember which frequency was quoted).

Do you have any experience with hearing change as we get older and with the validity of hearing tests?
A major factor in the validity of on line hearing tests is the speakers used in the test. The speakers should have a perfectly flat response.
Actually, using speakers is not a generally good method unless you are working in an anechoic chamber. The best one can do domestically is to use sealed headphones and, even then, one needs a very quiet environment. I have used sealed, calibrated Sennheisers for such tests but found that my Manhattan apartment or office was too noisy except in the dead of night. Testing in my CT house demonstrated a more than 20dB lower noise threshold and resulted in better sensitivity curves.

My testing was/is done with Audio-CD software. See:
With all things turned off (as best I can), through my Shure SRH-940s and my Centrance DACmini, I could hear up to around 14.3Khz at www.phys.com

At the talkclassical site, the graph shows my hearing topping out here:
12 Khz @-24db
8Khz @-69db
and it goes up relatively diagonally to 90Hz and then jumps 2-3db on down to 30Khz.

I know this is nowhere definitive but not bad for a set of 58 year old ears under not at all ideal circumstances. One must remember that these are nothing more than test tones and are not representative of actual music.

From whatever point you approach it, the highest range of an instrument goes to the piccolo which doesn't even reach 5kKhz, beating out the harp and violin, and the lowest goes to the contrabassoon which gets down to 26Khz, beating out the harp (again), bass and cello.

I don't care what your age is but it's a pretty good bet that even at my ripe old age of 58 I'm stilling hearing all there is to hear. Yes, there are overtones, ambience, etc. but if it's there, and it adds to the musical enjoyment, I'm still able to appreciate it.

All the best,
What is the reference for your dB measurements and under what conditions? Usually, it is referred to a standard at 1kHz. If you show -86dB at 1kHz, then your sensitivity at 8kHz is down 17dB and you are down 62dB at 12kHz. In fact, from those numbers your hearing is sloping off beginning somewhere between 2 and 3kHz.
Agreed. At the phys.com site, IKhz is the reference.

At the digital recording site, mentioned above, there is a graph that closely mirrors mine and is indicative of hearing loss. Yet I still can hear and enjoy, albeit with the hearing loss.

I listen to a lot of eclectic music with lots of woodwinds, accordians, etc. and have no trouble hearing them, as high as they go. The same goes for basses and cello.

There's a lot more going on in listening than test tones.

All the best,
OK but the standard way to list thresholds is to assign 0dB to the 1kHz level and express the others in relationship to that.

Can you tell me where you are getting "1Khz@-86db?"
All of my "@-**" indicates where I was unable to hear anything further. If I set it up wrong, I apologize. This was new to me and I just followed the directions (maybe incorrectly?)

All the best,
professional hearing tests only measure out to about 8 khz. Most of the key distinguishing sounds in speech occur in the 2-6 range, but no higher, so that is where the real concerns lie. the finest hearing aids only correct out to 10K (but really do not correct much at the upper end of the range; most only go to 8 khz). Net result: with rare exceptions, only audiophiles are concerned with, or try to test for, very high frequency sensitivity. btw, a hearing test by a real audiologist costs $100 or less.
Nonoise, I was asking what program you were using and how you got your dB numbers.
My hearing is pretty flat up to 10khz and then falls drastically upwards. I can't hear 12khz at all. Would have never guessed that. Lower frequencies are also impaired. I figure my Sennheiser 580's can reach the extremes.
Thanks to all for these informative posts. At the phys.com site I am down 78dB at 12kHz and down 63 dB at 16 kHz. This seems to indicate good hearing for someone in their 60s. I am using my USB headset for this since I don't have headphones.
The test that Nonoise lists from http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/hearing.html is flawed in a number of ways, particularly since it calls on the subjects ability to assess similar loudness levels at different frequencies. It also fails to minimize expectation bias. I would not rely on its results.

You may be interested in checking the following test too :


Which is closer to what an audiologist actually does.

I'm the first to admit that there is some expectation bias. This is where a blind test is the only real way to assess hearing ability, but it does give one an indication of just how lousy one's hearing can be....:-)

All the best,
Nonoise, as you are referring to blind tests, there is a nice one on the very same subject here:


It tests your upper hearing limit, from 10kHz to 20kHz (last octave of our hearing range... the one we need as audiophiles).

I am 42 and could pass the 16kHz with much of an effort, 17kHz failed.
The audiocheck site has limited FR and, in that way, does seem closer to what an audiologist actually does.

Expectation bias can be eliminated and I did that by copying and randomizing the tracks from the Audio-CD disc. So far, that is the best available to the layman with limited instrumentation.



I scored great up to 13Khz and then all bets were off. I could, however, detect down to 1db difference with 100% accuracy and down to a 10c pitch difference with 100% accuracy as well. I guess somethings work and make up for others that don't.

Could it be that a change in timbre or tone can lead one to figure out the rest aided with memory? Or is it that what we think are frequencies from the tweeter are just the higher limits of the midrange driver?

They say that most of what we hear is in the midrange.
Thanks for the site. If was fun to have as blind a test as possible without going to a doc.

All the best,
I apologize for saying that the audiocheck site had limited FR. I didn't see that the extended ranges were on other pages.

Still, knowing the frequency and level when being a subject is a bias. Better to have someone else administer the test to you.
I can't speak to the online tests, but to answer part of your question, some people's hearing can get more sensitive to high frequency at a certain age.
Due to high frequencies starting to bother me, I saw an ENT and an Audiologist recently and I can still hear 19 kHZ tone...no hearing loss at age 55. My mother is 85 and her hearing has become more sensitive over the last few years. If you're concerned, you should get a proper hearing test.
This is very interesting information. It goes against the accepted wisdom that we inevitably lose hearing as we get older.
I think Lowrider57 may be onto something. My mothers hearing got more sensitive to higher frequencies although her hearing acuity, overall, got worse.

There are very few bright recordings that tend to annoy. It's usually a bad recording (that old 'digital' sound) though I shouldn't be hearing them as of now, should I? Maybe it's part hereditary.
It's more akin to noise than music.
Could it be I'm tiring of digital music? :-)

All the best,
Sabai, I agree w/ you. My info comes from the ENT and I think the majority of people lose hearing across the high frequencies and the very low as they age. But, the high freq. sensitivity thing does happen to some people. He obviously knew about this phenomenon.
I started to notice my problem when listening to the car stereo/radio...all that sibilance. Then I noticed it when listening to cheap stereos and horn speakers. I have no problem with good HIFI sound except when I hear one of those
harsh-mastered CDs.
No long ago I had a hearing test done by a professional. I am now 73 and was told I had a slight loss in my left ear and that this was characteristic of those of my age who drove cars before air conditioning. I was also told that obviously I was in no need for a hearing aid. Again, I was told that I need to have wax removed from my ears. This is not news to me as this is a life time problem.

I cannot believe that the lack of control of what your computer's speakers are capable of accurate assessment.