Audiometer apps: reliability & potential

Megan Corry, Michael Sanders, and Grant D. Searchfield. The accuracy and reliability of an app-based audiometer using consumer headphones: pure tone audiometry in a normal hearing group.  International Journal Of Audiology.  Published online: 09 May 2017.

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Objective: To undertake a preliminary evaluation of the test–retest reliability, and accuracy of an iPad audiometer app using commercial earphones as a low-cost alternative to a clinical audiometer in a restricted sample of normal hearing participants.

Design: Twenty participants self-reporting normal hearing undertook four pure-tone audiometry tests in a single session. Two tests were performed with a 2-channel Type 1 audiometer (GSI-61) using EAR insert earphones and two tests with an iPad based app (Audiogram Mobile) using Apple earbud headphones.

Study sample: Twenty normal hearing participants (13 female and seven male participants, aged 21–26 years) were recruited for the test–retest and accuracy evaluations. Results: The app resulted in different thresholds to the audiometer (F(1, 19) = 16.635, p < 0.001). However test–retest reliability was similar. The app froze or quit unexpectedly over 25% of times used.

Conclusions: Audiometer apps have great potential for clinical settings, especially in resource scarce environments, but reliability should not be assumed. While a low cost-alternative to standard transducers, issues of accuracy and calibration of consumer headphones need to be addressed before such combinations can be used with confidence.

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