AMITIAE - Thursday 17 October 2013

Siemens Hearing Test app: Checking for Hearing Loss on the iPhone

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By Graham K. Rogers

Siemens Hearing Test

There are a number of reasons why people lose hearing. Most of us have good hearing when young, but over time, the environment may cause hearing power to diminish. Change is usually slow, so may not be detected initially. It is often manifested by the inability to make out certain consonants clearly. Siemens, who have a wide range of engineering and medical products, have produced an app that allows a user to check for hearing loss using an iOS device.

I have recently examined a number of apps that may be useful in checking for the possibility of color blindness. While looking through the lists, I also came across an app from the well-known German company, Siemens, that helps users check for hearing loss using an iPhone or other iOS device.

It is not from vanity that those working in Formula One wear ear protection devices. Long-term exposure to the high-frequency and loud engines will cause damage to the hearing. When I was riding police motor cycles in the late 1970s, there was a fear that the in-helmet speakers might affect us, so we were tested by audiologists.

Old folks often like to claim that teenagers who listen to loud music for long periods may also suffer such loss, but in many environments today, especially for those of us who live in cities, there is noise around us for much of the day. Bit by bit, our ears may discern less if we are not careful.

The app, called Siemens Hearing Test is one of more than 50 apps that the German-based company has developed. As one would expect, the product is well made and easy to use.

Hearing Hearing Hearing

Siemens Hearing Test

After an opening screen showing a young lady with an earpiece, the Hearing Test screen (using the same image) appears. The panel offers a brief explanation of what the test entails:

  • Find yourself a quiet environment.
  • Plug in your headphones and adjust the volume to a comfortable level.
  • Your right ear will now be tested.
  • You will hear nonsense words like "assa" or "atta" embedded in noise.

Below is a button marked Start test and a grey panel with "More Instructions". This takes the user to a second instruction page which provides clear information about what will be experienced:

  • A short beep announces each word.
  • In case you are not quite sure what you heard press "Not understood".
  • To repeat the word press "Repeat".
  • The next word will play automatically.
  • When you have completed the test for both ears, your results and recommendation will be displayed.

At the bottom of both instruction screens (and all other screens) are five icons, marked Test, Learn, Locate, Share and Saved Tests. At the top right of the instruction panels is an "i" that opens a panel giving information about the hearing test, about how it works, and about Siemens.

The Test

When the user presses the Start test button, the test panel is opened. Immediately there are sounds in the right earpiece (or headphone). To me these sounded like a mix of white noise with a dot matrix printer in the background. When this sound played, I heard a gentle female voice pronounce one of the word-sounds. The voice volume changed sometimes. When I identified the sound I pressed the equivalent button.

Hearing Hearing

At times, the sound was not distinct enough for me. I could either press the Repeat button or "Not understood." There were 9 test sounds. When the right ear test was done, the left ear was tested in the same way. When the second part of the test is complete, a small text box opens. The user enters a name for the saved test.

The result is shown in a graph format. I was not surprised to see that it suggested a possible hearing loss for both ears. Years of motor cycle riding probably began the damage, and the environment here is not kind to western ears: my doctor thinks that the humidity affects us more.

Hearing Hearing Hearing

There is a separate panel for each ear. Below each graph is a text with a recommendation and a disclaimer. Like the apps that tested for color blindness, this is not a diagnosis and may be at best an indication (a pretty good one, however).

Below the text is a large button marked Find a Hearing Care Professional. Pressing this button opens the "Locate" panel and a map is displayed. This was fairly small and showed two locations in Thailand (Bangkok, Chiang Mai). There was also one each in Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar, with three in northern Malaysia. These were within about 1,000 Kms of my detected location.

However, when I tried to use other cities in the search panel (Singapore, Hanoi, London, Frankfurt) a panel reported, "Sorry we couldn't find anywhere with that name". I am unable to say if this is a restriction imposed by my location or a limitation with the app. I tried in another location, some 20 kms from the first test (different router too, of course), but the result was the same.

Pressing on one of the pins that was dropped on the map gave me basic details of the hearing centers. There were two shown in the Bangkok area, but only one pin. I had to clear the data and press the pin again. Using the blue arrow on the basic details revealed a panel with full details of each of these, including address, phone numbers, email and a directions button. This took me out of the app to Google Maps. The coordinates given may not be accurate.

As well as the Locations, other icons are Learn, Share and Saved Tests:

  • Learn contains a text that gives information about the human ear, hearing loss, and symptoms.
  • Share allows the user to invite others by posting on Facebook or Twitter, or via email.
  • Saved Tests lists the tests taken in reverse order. An edit button allows any to be deleted.


While a self-diagnosis is not authoritative, a quick check by someone worried about an advancing condition, might want to use such an app. This might confirm that further examination by a professional is needed. Hearing loss may be from a cause as easily fixed as a build-up of ear wax, or it may indicate more long-term care could be needed.

Although there are many hospitals and clinics that are able to provide comprehensive testing for those with hearing impairment, the Siemens Hearing Test app links to those who may well use Siemens' own equipment, so this is of mutual benefit to the company and to the office highlighted in the app.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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