It may seem, initially, like measuring hearing loss would be easy. If you’re dealing with hearing loss, you can most likely hear certain things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. You might confuse certain letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters perfectly fine at any volume. It will become more evident why you have inconsistencies with your hearing when you learn how to read your hearing test. Because merely turning up the volume isn’t enough.
How do I interpret the results of my audiogram?
An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals utilize to determine how you hear. It won’t look as simple as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it did!)
Many people find the graph format challenging at first. But if you know what you’re looking at, you too can interpret the results of your audiogram.
Looking at volume on a hearing test
Along the left side of the graph is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to about 120 (thunder). The higher the number, the louder the sound must be for you to hear it.
If you’re unable to hear any sound until it is about 30 dB then you have mild hearing loss which is a loss of sound between 26 and 45 dB. If hearing begins at 45-65 dB then you’re dealing with moderate hearing loss. If you start hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it indicates you’re dealing with severe hearing loss. If you are unable to hear sound until it gets up to 90 dB or more (louder than the volume of a running lawnmower), it means that you have profound hearing loss.
The frequency section of your audiogram
Volume isn’t the only thing you hear. You hear sound at different frequencies, commonly called pitches in music. Frequencies help you distinguish between types of sounds, including the letters of the alphabet.
Frequencies that a human ear can hear, ranging from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are typically listed on the lower section of the chart.
We will test how well you hear frequencies in between and can then plot them on the graph.
So, for illustration, if you have high-frequency hearing loss, in order for you to hear a high-frequency sound it may have to be at least 60 dB (which is around the volume of a raised, but not yelling, voice). The chart will plot the volumes that the various frequencies will have to reach before you can hear them.
Is it significant to measure both frequency and volume?
So in real life, what could the outcome of this test mean for you? High-frequency hearing loss, which is a quite common form of loss would make it harder to hear or comprehend:
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- Higher pitched voices like women and children tend to have
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- “F”, “H”, “S”
While somebody with high-frequency hearing loss has more difficulty with high-frequency sounds, certain frequencies may seem easier to hear than others.
Inside of the inner ear tiny stereocilia (hair-like cells) shake in response to sound waves. If the cells that detect a specific frequency become damaged and eventually die, you lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. You will entirely lose your ability to hear any frequencies that have lost all of the related hair cells.
This type of hearing loss can make some communications with friends and family extremely aggravating. You may have difficulty only hearing certain frequencies, but your family members may assume they have to yell to be heard at all. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister speaking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for people who have this kind of hearing loss.
Hearing solutions can be individualized by a hearing professional by using a hearing test
When we can understand which frequencies you cannot hear well or at all, we can fine tune a hearing aid to meet each ear’s distinct hearing profile. Contemporary hearing aids have the ability to know precisely what frequencies enter the microphone. The hearing aid can be fine tuned to boost whatever frequency you’re having difficulty hearing. Or it can change the frequency through frequency compression to another frequency you can hear. In addition, they can improve your ability to process background noise.
This creates a smoother more natural hearing experience for the hearing aid wearer because instead of just making everything louder, it’s meeting your unique hearing needs.
If you believe you might be experiencing hearing loss, call us and we can help.