Smartphone-Based Applications to Detect Hearing Loss: A Review of Current Technology

Alexandria L. Irace, Rahul K. Sharma, Nicholas S. Reed, Justin S. Golub

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Background/Objectives: Age-related hearing loss (ARHL) is a widely prevalent yet manageable condition that has been linked to neurocognitive and psychiatric comorbidities. Multiple barriers hinder older individuals from being diagnosed with ARHL through pure-tone audiometry. This is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in the closure of many outpatient audiology and otolaryngology offices. Smartphone-based hearing assessment apps may overcome these challenges by enabling patients to remotely self-administer their own hearing examination. The objective of this review is to provide an up-to-date overview of current mobile health applications (apps) that claim to assess hearing. Design: Narrative review. Measurements: The Apple App Store and Google Play Store were queried for apps that claim to assess hearing. Relevant apps were downloaded and used to conduct a mock hearing assessment. Names of included apps were searched on four literature databases (PubMed/MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, and CINAHL) to determine which apps had been validated against gold standard methods. Results: App store searches identified 44 unique apps. Apps differed with respect to the type of test offered (e.g., hearing threshold test), cost, strategies to reduce ambient noise, test output (quantitative vs qualitative results), and options to export results. Validation studies were identified for seven apps. Conclusion: Given their low cost and relative accessibility, smartphone-based hearing apps may facilitate screening for ARHL, particularly in the setting of limitations on in-person medical care due to COVID-19. However, app features vary widely, few apps have been validated, and user-centered designs for older adults are largely lacking. Further research and validation efforts are necessary to determine whether smartphone-based hearing assessments are a feasible and accurate screening tool for ARHL. Key Points Age-related hearing loss is a prevalent yet undertreated condition among older adults. Why Does this Paper Matter? Smartphone-based hearing test apps may facilitate remote screening for hearing loss, but limitations surrounding app validation, usability, equipment calibration, and data security should be addressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-316
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Volume69
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2021

Keywords

  • age-related hearing loss
  • hearing test
  • telehealth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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