Healthcare Technology Featured Article

February 09, 2016

Mobile App for Hearing Tests On the Horizon

Federal government regulations currently require any employee who works in a high-volume workplace to undergo a yearly audiogram to ensure their safety. Unfortunately, because many of these “loud” jobs are in rural areas, going to get such a test can require a fair amount of travel and aggravation. That’s where the hEAR app hopes to have an impact.

The app, designed by Adam Pickens, a PHD and assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, is meant to take the place of traditional hearing tests in a doctor’s office with only a smartphone and a set of headphones. The test is self administered and incredibly simple: the user is played a tone that has its pitch adjusted at intervals. The user is asked to keep a finger on the screen as long as they hear the tone, and release it once they cannot anymore. The app will then email the test results to a certified audiologist for interpretation. This is in line with Beksey audiology, which the World Health Organization has dubbed the best practice for self-administered hearing tests.

As with any hearing test, there is the possibility for both false positives and false negatives. The app thus has built in algorithms which will help use multiple data points to eliminate these errors. The app’s developers are also working on a formula to determine if background noise is having an impact on the test results.

Overall though, the greatest draw of hEAR is its ease of use and accuracy. “It’s as easy as can be,” Pickens says. “There are other hearing screening apps on the market, but they require an individual to administer the test, which tends to introduce more error in the data collected. This is a clinically relevant screening tool that doesn’t require a trained professional to administer it.” Pickens and hEAR represent a great opportunity to save time and money while preserving the accuracy that is necessary in these hearing tests. 

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

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