hearing tests - where and how?

It appears that "audiologists" are really only in the business of selling hearing aids, which are not even remotely full-range. After deciding to get tested, I found that almost no one does full range hearing tests - they don't bother to test beynd 8khz. I suspect that many readers of this forum would not consider an 8khz upper limit an adequate test. Has anyone already researched this, or found a source for a REAL hearing test? A Houston recommendation would be ideal.
Have you asked your audiologist if they have the means to test to higher freqs?If not,find an ENT in your area that specializes in treating professional vocalists.They will have more thorough testing than a regular ENT/audiologist.There are two in my podunk town so I'm quite sure you can find one in a city the size of Houston.
A few years ago I had no problem getting a referral from my doctor for a visit to an ENT's office for a hearing test that went up to 20K.

Stay out of the phone book and ask your doctor instead.
Just have the Mrs. to henpeck you and see whether you still remember what she says the next day. Then you will know how good your hearing is...:-)
Easter Seals
If you live anywhere near San Francisco, the Exploratorium in the Palace of Fine Arts, left over from the Pan-American World Fair, has on the second floor, a complete hearing test for you. It's also a great place to visit. Was told to go there by my Ears, Nose, and Throat guy for a good and free hearing test.
Up to 12K is important. Higher than that is not really that relevant to music.
Agree with Shadorne, and I would also add that most audiologists should do a test that covers that.
Good luck on finding an audiologist who tests above 8k. There is a legitimate reason for that. The profession serves a community of persons whose hearing actually causes a problem with their daily life - up to about 4k is all that is important in that respect. Not many health professionals are there to determine whether someone has an optimal response to music - would not be much business. Being able to hear voice without someone screaming is more the focus, and more what the vast majority of people are concerned with. As far as audiologist's only being in the business of selling hearing aids, what's wrong with that? Requiring, or even being on the cusp of requiring a hearing aid is a significant health and living concern. On any realistic scale, having an optimum hearing response for music is not a significant health or living concern. Regardless, if you look hard enough you can probably find someone who will be willing to test your hearing out to 50k - great for the supertweater crowd and those who hear chaos influenced electrons in cables.
In New York, one of the better places is the New York League of Hard of Hearing, now located on lower Broadway. Great for testing as they do little if any selling of aids. Went there for over fifty years.
Just use your system to play test tones in 1k increments starting out at about 10k, that will give you a real world idea of your hearing limits in your listening room. I did this recently I found I could not hear any of the tones past about 15k.
Stereophile test cd #3. Very useful!

Alas, I get the same results with this test cd as I do when I go to audiologist.

There is at least one company that makes a CD containing test tones from 20-20,000 hertz their specifications suggest that it is reasonably accurate
AudioCD works well but it does require a very quiet environment in order to get reliable thresholds. Here is a link to my experiences with it.
I visited a high end store some time ago, and although my hearing is perfect acording to a recent test; they demonstrated that I could not hear above 18K. This was done with the use of a frequency generator, a speaker and a decibel meter. All frequencies were generated at a loud level. When they got past 16K, the apparent volume began to rapidly diminish. After they got past 18K, all was silent. Unfortunately that's not the end of the story.
Somehow, I can distinguish in the music between tweeters that go beyond audibility and those that don't. A hearing test does not take "Harmonics" into account.
Very good point, Orpheus. Also, research has proven that the brain can indeed perceive frequencies above those that the ear can hear, which is fascinating. Don't tell that to designers of digital processors, though, the vast majority of whom (at least as of a couple of years ago, anyway) still remove these frequencies as a matter of course, claiming that we don't miss them.
thanks for the responses. Still no success at finding any audiologist in Houston that can do a full-range test. I suspect there may not be any - just not part of their "business model" or the software most of them use now. I've tried the Stereophile test CD test - it wasn't finely calibrated enough to show the midrange flattening I know I have - hoping for something a little more exact. May try one of those cd's intended for hearing tests.
You can borrow mine, along with a calibrator and SPL meter, IF you promise to send it back to me within a month or so.
Learsfool wrote:
Also, research has proven that the brain can indeed perceive frequencies above those that the ear can hear, which is fascinating.

Actually, only one lab has promoted that and none of their findings have been replicated by any other lab.

Kal, not sure where you got that - the subject has been researched for decades by many different people in many different countries, along with much other brain research. A Google search should yield more info than anyone would ever really care to know on the subject. Much of the knowledge was discovered quite accidentally when researchers were studying the brains of people who were deaf. There is also alot of fascinating research out there about how the brain perceives spatial distances/relationships, much of which is actually received through the ear rather than the eye, again even in deaf people. I came across some of it while researching a paper I had to write back in my college days for an acoustics course. Don't have any of those notes anymore, that was over twenty years ago now, but I know the info is out there.
Right here

and here

And I never knew what music was supposed to sound like until I clicked on the
Listen to Environmental Sounds - Music button
Learsfool wrote: "Kal, not sure where you got that ...."

From many years as a neuroscientist who studies and lectures on the topic. When there is reliable, confirmed and replicated evidence, let me know.

Hi Kal - so apparently the research I read about back then has been called into question in the last twenty years at some point? If so, this is honestly the first I have ever heard of it - as I said, I remember it being discussed in multiple studies not as a theory, but as scientifically proven fact. Perhaps they were indeed based on the same original research, but I don't remember it that way. Certainly there are many people in the audio/music industry that believe it. I would be interested in hearing how this was disproven then, if it has been? Or was the research merely deemed unreliable by someone, which is what you seem to be implying, and if so why, if this is easily put in layman's terms? I am certainly no scientist, but the idea does seem to make sense, even if it hasn't actually been proven reliably. Please feel free to send me an email through the audiogon system if that's easier.
I have tested the hearing of thousands of people and many of them will respond to a tone physically via things like head movement, eye movement and/or a puzzled look on their face exactly when the tone occurs yet won't raise their hand to conform they consciously hear it. At a subconscious level (it certainly seems)they are hearing it but they cannot consciously react and confirm it. This condition I describe above where you see a physical reaction but the person being tested does not respond by raising their hand always occurs within 5 or 10db of their actual conscious threshold where they do raise their hand.

8K is adequate believe it or not. I tested people for five years. 16K is only one octave up. Getting equipment to properly measure higher would be really tough. If you have an HF problem 2,3,4,6 and 8K will show it as will word testing that emphasize consonants that require good HF hearing like words with s,th,ch and so on. I also prefer in the ear tips over over the ear headphones for accuracy and relief from ambient room noise for the most accurate results.


I think I agree with Shadorne, who said this:

"Up to 12K is important. Higher than that is not really that relevant to music."

I had an audiogram a few years back and asked them to measure out to 12 kHz, which was as high as they could go, and one "step" above the 8 kHz where they usually stop. I had a slight rolloff.

The reason I think I agree with Shadorne (other than the fact that he seems really smart and proficient based on his posts to other threads and his own virtual system thread) is because I've heard those tones higher than 12 kHz with my "AUDIO-CD Hearing Test" CD, and they're REEEEEALLY high. Not pleasant to the ear, and would seem to be about on the same frequency as tape hiss, or maybe even higher.

So anyway, why not test out to 12 kHz for "us" audiophiles?
I agree that higher would be better. My point was that there are few people that are flat at 8K that don't have roll off at both 12 and 16K say but not enouh to deteriorate their HF hearing. As we loose hearing our brains compensate which is why people often aren't aware of a mild to medium hearing loss that happens over say a ten or more year peiod. Also it would be a lot more costly to both pay for and maintain calibration on equipment that measures higher.

I use my signal generator and can still hear 16K. You're right it can be painful and be careful a steady HF sinewave can damge the tweeter and your hearing.

At such high frequencies the wavelengths are so short that placement of a transducer is not very reliable, and the perceived frequency response can vary from trail to trail. If you're trying to use speaker in a no-anachoic environment, minute head movements can vary the results. In psychoacoutic testing we trusted only forced-choice tests in which the listener tries to identify which interval contained the test tone over many trials. Low level hearing is a stochastic process, so the concept of threshold is just that. And then there's the problem with calibration . . .

And what difference does it make anyway? Why not just listen to the audio system of interest?

This is in response to Learsfool: I am not trying to be contentious but presenting what I know. Most posters on audio forums refer to the work of Oohashi and associates and it is about their work I was commenting.

What I do not know is what you believe is scientifically reliable evidence of "hearing" significantly beyond 20KHz and would appreciate a reference or two.

This article makes for interesting reading, and supports what Kal has been saying:


The reference in the article to "High-Frequency Sound Above the Audible Range Affects Brain Electric Activity and Sound Perception" is the Oohashi paper Kal referred to, which can be purchased from the AES here.

Also, I hope that Professor Kal R., Ph.D., won't mind if I mention that he is a long-time faculty member at one of the most prestigious medical institutions in the United States.

-- Al
Thanks very much Kal and Al for the info and the link. Sounds to me like the question is very much unanswered. Just because modern technology cannot measure whether we can hear above 20K does not mean that we cannot. I personally would not be so dismissive of the idea as the writer of that article - I don't think it is an unimportant subject, despite the fact we can't prove it anytime soon. Clearly the results were not entirely negative, so more study is warranted.

I have always found it interesting that many proponents of analog, as stated in that article, have argued that digital processing is eliminating important info from the music. I personally have always tended to agree with this - when I listen to a digital recording of my own sound (I am a professional horn player), it seems to be missing overtones compared to the analog tape recordings I used to make of myself back in the day. You could argue that I am just imagining this, or hearing things or whatever, and you might be right, but you might be wrong as well. We can't prove it. I do know that when I play an LP from the "golden age" of orchestral recording and compare it to a digitally remastered version, the latter just doesn't sound the same. I have always thought that this processing away of anything above 20K must have something to do with that, and I didn't read anything in that article to change my mind on that, though there are certainly other things that the processing could be eliminating that would account for the difference as well, I freely admit. Fascinating stuff - I hope that we do know the answer in my lifetime. And Kal, the research referred to in that article took place after the time I read whatever I read back in college, so obviously I am misremembering that someone had scientifically proven it. I am more than happy to take your word for it that there hadn't been any other significant work done on the subject. Whoever I read must have been writing about it only as a theory. Thanks for your patience with me, I very much appreciate it!
Learsfool wrote:
Sounds to me like the question is very much unanswered. Just because modern technology cannot measure whether we can hear above 20K does not mean that we cannot.
First, the technology we have is more than capable but why would you presume that we can hear supersonic frequencies? All the substantial data indicates otherwise. For example, competent electrophysiology demonstrates that auditory nerve fibers respond to frequencies up to approximately 20KHz in healthy young adults but not higher and the technology is capable of resolving whether there are responses to higher frequencies. So, if any such information is not getting in via the auditory nerves, then (1) one must posit that any higher frequency input must be coming in from a non-auditory pathway and (2) one must, consequently, question its role in auditory perception.

I don't think it is an unimportant subject, despite the fact we can't prove it anytime soon.
Sure, it may be important around here but, frankly, we do have all the technology needed for this but it has not captured the interest of the best scientists in the field.

Kr4 is correct on all points in this discussion. After spending many years in the field of biomedical engineering and having read hundreds of engineering as well as medical journal articles I can attest to the fact that if there is a topic that is unsettled or begs to be investigated then there is research being conducted on the topic and articles published on the research. The nature of research in these fields is that repeated studies are carried out by different researchers, not only to investigate previously researched questions but also to validate (or invalidate) the results of already published research studies. A single study, without verification, says little. As it is universally accepted that the upper frequency limit of human hearing is 20kHz (look in any physiology textbook) the burden lies with those who assert that the upper limit is higher. A trip to your local enginneering and medical college libraries will provide you with the resources to conduct literature searches of published research necessary to support your theory. Many public universities provide access and assistance to members of the community.
HI guys - I am a bit mystified by your hostility to this idea - unless I read that article Al linked wrong, I thought it clearly stated that the brain activity of I think it was 6 of the 16 people registered very differently when tones above 20kHz were played. So these people obviously had some sort of perception of/reaction to it, and I thought the article also said that we didn't have the technology to understand these perceptions/reactions accurately yet. As Kal suggests, it may not have been an auditory perception, but it does not necessarily follow that this perception does not have an effect on how we perceive music. For instance, as I mentioned before, many deaf people definitely have musical perception which is clearly not auditory, and has also not been entirely explained by science at this point.

And frankly, I am also very amused to see someone in the biomedical engineering field asserting that "if there is a topic that is unsettled or begs to be investigated then there is research being conducted on the topic and articles published on the research." This is simply absurd. Of course, I admit that I am not surprised that no one is willing to fund the research in question in this thread. Unfortunately in our society, not very much research is going to get done that doesn't make a financial profit somehow for someone somewhere.
Learsfool: Have you gone to the libraries to see if there is any research in this area? It appears that you are conceding that there is not. As far as your comment that you are surprised that a person with an engineering background would make the statement in my last post, maybe that surprise comes because your apparently have no scientific background. Try actually going and doing a literature search more extensive than googling "hearing and music" so that you have some idea as to what is actually researched by those in the area of physics, engineering, and medicine. You apparently have no idea. Your arguments for why, as you have conceded, there is no research is the old "bad money hungry science guys" variation of "bad big society" argument. You could try the Roswell secret hidden alien argument - about as valid and equally applicable to everything contrary to science (can work for ufo's, telekenisis, homeopathy, or any other crackpot idea). As far as your statement regarding profit, your definition of potential profit is so broad that it would be hard to imagine that establishing that people hear above 20 kHz would not be profitable. After all Sony, Miramax, and dozens of other companies could certainly find a way to turn such proof into profit. What is the vastly more reasonable explanation is that if there is no research in the area it is because people generally do not waste their time and resources investigating proven facts.
Addendum: correction to previous post. I stated "Have you gone to the libraries to see if there is any research in this area? It appears that you are conceding that there is not.". This should read "Have you gone to the libraries to see if there is any research to support your contention? It appears that you are conceding that there is not."
BTW, I believe that Oohashi's first studies were funded by Pioneer. This goes way back.

Musicnoise, there is no need to get nasty and insult mine or anyone else's intelligence in these forums. I am truly sorry if I offended you with the flippant nature of my previous post - it was not meant to be a personal attack; I was trying to be funny, very unsuccessfully I admit, and I was and still am exasperated by the fact that you are completely ignoring my real points. No, I am not a scientist, but I did work in the university library in school, helping the grad students with their music research (long before Google existed, and when the only computers were in the libraries, no one had their own yet). And I do have three full-time university professors in my immediate family, including two sociologists that do extensive research, one of them more than she teaches. I think you know very well what I meant by my comments, but you are obviously refusing, for whatever reasons, to take my points on the topic seriously, which is very disappointing. I really would like to hear exactly why, as a scientist, you think that there is no possible way the brain could perceive frequencies above 20kHz (for instance, what else would account for the increased brain activity in the 6 subjects?). As that article makes clear, it is NOT a proven scientific fact that we cannot - it merely stated that it was not a proven fact that we can. That was my main point.

The human brain is a much more sophisticated instrument than any piece of technology mankind has created, and there is a great deal about it we either don't know or can't prove. I have always contended that scientists and artists have very similar outlooks (and scientists are traditionally big supporters of the arts) - both are explorers, in a sense. However, I think in this case we are seeing a fundamental difference in temperament between you and I. You, the scientist, seem to be unwilling to even discuss seriously the possibility of something that is not definitely proven. I, the artist, am more positively imaginative about the limits of human possibility; perhaps overly so, but that remains to be seen.
I know an opera singer who claims some women can sing into the ultrasonic frequencies. He claimed audience get a tingly feeling or other type of physical response and enjoy the singing more because of the something extra being added.

Mariah Carey, anyone? No NOT an opera singer but her HF extension is well known.
I can't help but enter a thought or two about this discussion. I have enjoyed music all my life, and to protect my hearing, I have always used ear plugs at work. My hearing used to be phenomenal. Of course, as I aged(53 and counting), there was no doubt about the changes that have occurred. I did get a hearing test to confirm it, and ended up with a pair of Decibel 'Hearing Sticks'. I cannot say that they are perfect, and I don't always wear them. I will say that the fidelity that they are capable of is worthwhile sometimes, and not others. I must say that we might compare ourselves to the fat man riding the $5,000 bicycle. Great bike, very fast, responsive and light, but who do we think we are kidding?