The senior hearing test you can do yourself

Todays post is part of our ongoing series, The Encompass Way. Here, we’ll go over many of the steps involved in setting up a comprehensive care plan, which helps us to provide seniors and their families a complete understanding of the available care options and helps them maneuver through the challenges of the system.

DIY hearing testA third of people older than 60 suffer from hearing loss, making it one the most common conditions affecting older adults (hearing loss in the elderly is especially common, affecting half of people 85 and older). Causes can come naturally with age or be an undesired side effect of excessive noise exposure, trauma or even medication.

If you suspect your elderly loved one is suffering from hearing loss, there’s an easy test you can conduct yourself to help determine if a professional examination is required. The test comes from an Oxford study investigating the reliability of simple free-field voice testing from the book Age Ageing:

Performing the Whispered Voice Test

1. Stand behind the patient’s field of vision. This eliminates the possibility of lip-reading.

2. Gently occlude and rub the external auditory canal of the non-tested ear.

3. Ask the patient to repeat a set of three different random numbers (e.g., 6, 1, 9) presented to the tested ear at four decreasing levels of loudness: conversational voice at six inches and at two feet from the ear, and whispered voice at six inches and at two feet from the ear. Exhale completely prior to testing with whispered voice.


A passing score is given if the patient can repeat all three numbers correctly at each level of loudness or achieve greater than 50% success over three successive triplet sets.

Failure to pass at each level of voice testing is considered a positive test for hearing impairment. Failure to hear a whisper at two feet indicates hearing loss and may be the most discriminant test of the set.

Hearing loss diminishes a person’s quality of life, making it hard to understand phone conversations, hear above background noise, converse with more than one person at a time, et al. Just imagine how frustrating it must be to have to continually ask friends and loved ones to repeat themselves. However, if hearing loss is identified, there are treatments that can ease the symptoms, so the sooner you get your loved one tested for hearing loss, all the better.

Currently serving Omaha and surrounding areas, all Encompass services are directed by registered nurses or social workers with no long-term contracts. Contact us today for help with your senior care needs.

Photo credit: benjaminasmith via photopin cc

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