In accord with Better Hearing and Speech Month, Unitron introduces uHear—a hearing test application for the iPhone and iPod touch.  

Despite widespread concern about the impact of hearing loss on their quality of life, 49% of North Americans expose themselves at least once a week to potential harm, and 61% haven’t had their hearing tested within the past 5 years, according to a new survey from Unitron (US headquarters in Plymouth, Minn) and Angus Reid Strategies, a market research company. 

Available on iTunes for 99 cents, uHear is a self-administered screening test to identify potential hearing loss through three assessments: hearing sensitivity, speech in noise, and a questionnaire about common listening situations, the company says. It is a sophisticated and comprehensive test with real-life results, calibrated to test actual hearing thresholds and calibrated for both ears, according to the company. People can retake the test at different times to see if their hearing thresholds have temporarily shifted, such as after a rock concert, listening to a loud MP3 player, or following a head cold. It offers a locate function, to help find the nearest hearing care professional for a full follow-up.

From April 8 to April 14, 2009, Angus Reid Strategies conducted an online survey on behalf of Unitron among a randomly selected, representative sample of 1,000 adult Americans and 1,003 adult Canadians, the company says. They report that the margin of error for the total sample is +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20, and within each country the margin of error is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the latest Canadian and American Census data for age, gender, region, and education to ensure a representative sample of the entire adult population of North America (the United States and Canada), according to Unitron. The survey reports that one-third of North Americans haven’t tested their hearing in more than 10 years.

While hearing loss affects an estimated 35 million people across North America, the survey shows a disparity between North Americans’ awareness of how they’re damaging their hearing, and their willingness to prevent or assess potential hearing loss. Nearly 60% never wear hearing protection, and most don’t seek the necessary care when it comes to their ears—some 13% of respondents said they’ve never had their hearing tested, according to the survey.

Younger adults (ages 18 to 34) are most at risk—30% have admitted they expose themselves to potential hearing damage at least once a day, the company says. Some 84% said they’ve turned up their MP3 player to block out noise in everyday situations at home, on the street, or while on transportation, ignoring the recommended 60/120 rule: listen at 60%  of the maximum volume for up to 120 minutes; any more can lead to permanent hearing loss. 

Among the survey’s findings:

•    Men do more damage, but take better care: 58% of males exposed themselves to potential hearing damage at least once a week versus only 41% of females, yet more than double the number often or always wear hearing protection (18% versus 8%), and 17% more males than females have had their hearing tested in the last 5 years (48% versus 31%).

•    Survey results show noise at home is on par with noise on the subway, with 33% of respondents saying they’ve turned up their MP3 player to block out noise, both at home and while on transportation.

•    Older people forego protection: at 70%, the 55+ age group had highest response to never wearing hearing protection, compared to 55% of 34 to 55 year olds and 54% of 18 to 34 year olds.

Click here to download uHear. If you do not have iTunes, you can access uHear off of the Web site by following links to the appstore/medical/uHear.

Unitron,  a member of the Sonova Group, specializes in technologically advanced hearing instruments. The company says it plans to donate proceeds from the sale of uHear to charities that support hearing loss awareness and education.

[Source: Unitron]