Mobile Hearing Testing Applications and the Diagnosis of Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss: A Cautionary Tale

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Abstract

Objective:

Mobile hearing applications (apps) are available for hearing testing, personal sound amplification, as well as hearing aid modulation. Hearing testing apps are gaining popularity, especially in resource-limited settings. The reliability of mobile hearing testing apps, however, is not well characterized.

Patients/interventions:

A case study of a single patient with a complaint of sudden hearing loss presenting to a tertiary-care hospital.

Main Outcome Measure:

Comparison of a mobile hearing testing app results with standard audiogram.

Results:

A commercially available mobile hearing testing app was used after hours to determine if a patient's hearing complaints were consistent with sudden sensorineural hearing loss. The hearing app produced a rudimentary audiogram that was consistent with unilateral SSNHL. Given contraindications to oral treatment, preparations for possible intratympanic dexamethasone after a full audiometric evaluation were completed. Confirmatory audiogram the following day demonstrated normal hearing without evidence of hearing loss. Steroid treatment was aborted and appropriate counseling provided.

Conclusion:

While mobile hearing testing apps offer improved access to hearing screening in resource-limited settings, caution must be exercised when interpreting data and making clinical decisions based upon results. The role of professional audiologists remains critical. Further testing and validation of specific apps is required.

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