What Is a Sound Frequency Test? Learn Why This Test Is Very Important.

young kid with hearing aid next to a frequency overlay

We hear all kinds of sounds around us — birds chirping, people talking, dogs barking, and children playing. All of these sounds fall within a frequency range. A diminished ability to hear high-frequency sounds is one of the first obvious signs of hearing loss.

This article will talk about sound frequency tests and how humans perceive different frequencies.

What Is a Sound Frequency Hearing Test?

A sound frequency hearing test measures the range of frequencies that an individual can hear. This type of hearing test uses a frequency sweep from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz to determine the lower and upper limit of your hearing range. It is typically used in a free online hearing test to assess your “hearing age.”

Unlike a professional hearing test, the sound frequency test does not provide information on the type and severity of your hearing loss. When you get your hearing tested by an audiologist, they will only test from 250 to 8,000 Hz, which is roughly the speech range.

To test your speech understanding capacity, you can take a word recognition test.

The Role Frequency Plays in Hearing Testing

The hair cells inside the inner ear can become damaged or degraded due to age, prolonged exposure to loud sounds, or medical conditions.

A person progressively loses their ability to hear high-pitched sounds when this happens.

Frequency is an essential part of any hearing test, whether a professional audiological exam or a free online hearing test.

Online Tests

There are several sound frequency online hearing tests that tell you how old your hearing is. The range of these tests covers 20 to 20,000 Hz, but most adults can only hear up to 15,000 Hz. Hearing aid manufacturers and vendors like Starkey, ReSound, and Widex offer a free online hearing test.

Most online tests recommend using in-ear headphones with flat frequency response for best results.

An online hearing test usually involves various high and low-frequency tones. You can use headphones or computer speakers, but most tests recommend in-ear headphones with a flat frequency response. An online hearing test might also feature an audio presentation of a list of words or numbers.

If you are taking an online hearing test, you should take the results with a grain of salt.

An online test is a helpful screening tool that you can do for free in your own home, but it’s no substitute for testing by a trained and qualified audiologist.

If you’re experiencing hearing challenges, you should consult a licensed professional for a comprehensive hearing test.

Online Hearing Test Vs. Audiology Exam

A professional audiology exam measures the function of your outer, middle and inner ear. These are usually administered by licensed audiologists in hearing clinics. Only audiologists are qualified to diagnose the type and severity of hearing loss.

In a hearing test performed by an audiologist, the tester will use a sound generator to play different tones ranging from 250 to 8,000 Hz. The audiologist will adjust the volume level at each frequency to determine the softest sound the patient can hear. This is called the “hearing threshold.”

An audiologist will use headphones to test the left ear and right ear separately and plot the thresholds for each ear, and frequency range on a grid called an audiogram.

The audiologist determines the type of hearing loss by looking at the audiogram’s shape.

A comprehensive hearing test also includes tests to check your ability to understand speech and objective tests of middle ear function. The test conducted for diagnosing middle ear problems is called a tympanometry test.

An online hearing test is for informational purposes only. It can tell you if you might benefit from hearing aids but little else.

The typical online hearing test can’t provide the level of detailed information needed to accurately diagnose hearing loss.


Your capacity to hear different frequencies is a good hearing indicator, but exercise caution when using hearing tests online. The results may not be accurate or reliable due to factors such as background noise and lack of proper audio equipment. It is important to consult a hearing professional if you suspect hearing loss.

Your audiologist can recommend effective treatment options based on the type and degree of your hearing loss.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is high-frequency hearing loss?

High-frequency hearing loss means reduced hearing sensitivity to sounds at high frequencies. It is commonly seen in adults over 65 and individuals exposed to loud noises. High-frequency hearing loss occurs when the hair cells responsible for high frequencies degenerate or break.

Which frequencies can humans hear?

Humans can perceive frequencies ranging from 20 to 20,000 Hz. However, the upper limit for most adults is 17,000 Hz. Although we can detect a wide range of frequencies, we are most sensitive to frequencies between 2,000 and 5,000 Hz, where most speech sounds occur.

How do we hear different frequencies?

Each of the 16,000 hair cells in our ear corresponds to a narrow frequency range, and they are arranged in order of their frequency, starting from the base to the top of the cochlea. The hair cells dedicated to the highest frequencies are located near the opening of the cochlea, whereas the low-frequency hair cells are positioned at the bottom.