AMITIAE - Thursday 17 October 2013
Siemens Hearing Test app: Checking for Hearing Loss on the iPhone
By Graham K. Rogers
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.
Siemens Hearing TestAfter 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:
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:
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 TestWhen 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.
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.
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.
CommentsWhile 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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