It may seem, at first, like measuring hearing loss would be easy. If you’re dealing with hearing loss, you can most likely hear some things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. You may confuse certain letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters just fine at whatever volume. When you figure out how to understand your hearing test it becomes more obvious why your hearing is “inconsistent”. It’s because there’s more to hearing than simply cranking up the volume.
When I get my audiogram, how do I interpret it?
Hearing professionals will be able to get a read on the state of your hearing by utilizing this type of hearing test. It won’t look as basic as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it did!)
Instead, it’s written on a graph, which is why many people find it perplexing. But you too can interpret a hearing test if you’re aware of what you’re looking at.
Reading volume on an audiogram
Along the left side of the graph is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to around 120 (thunder). This number will determine how loud a sound has to be for you to be able to hear it. Higher numbers mean that in order for you to hear it, you will need louder sound.
A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB signifies mild hearing loss. You have moderate hearing loss if your hearing starts at 45-65 dB. Hearing loss is severe if your hearing starts at 66-85 dB. 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.
Reading frequency on a hearing test
Volume’s not the only thing you hear. You can also hear a range of frequencies or pitches of sound. Different types of sounds, including letters of the alphabet, are differentiated by frequency or pitch.
Frequencies which a human ear can hear, ranging from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are generally listed on the lower section of the graph.
We will check how well you’re able to hear frequencies in between and can then diagram them on the chart.
So, for example, if you have high-frequency hearing loss, in order for you to hear a high-frequency sound it might have to be at least 60 dB (which is around the volume of an elevated, but not yelling, voice). The volume that the sound needs to reach for you to hear specific frequencies varies and will be plotted on the graph.
Is it essential to track both frequency and volume?
Now that you know how to interpret your audiogram, let’s take a look at what those results may mean for you in real life. Here are some sounds that would be tougher to hear if you have the very common form of high frequency hearing loss:
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
Certain specific frequencies might be harder for someone with high frequency hearing loss to hear, even within the higher frequency range.
Inside your inner ear you have very small hair-like nerve cells that shake along with sounds. If the cells that pick up a certain frequency become damaged and ultimately die, you lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. You will completely lose your ability to hear any frequencies that have lost all of the corresponding hair cells.
This type of hearing loss can make some communications with friends and family really frustrating. Your family members might think they have to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have difficulty hearing particular frequencies. In addition to that, those who have this type of hearing loss find background noise overpowers louder, higher-frequency sounds such as your sister talking to you in a restaurant.
Hearing solutions can be individualized by a hearing professional by using a hearing test
We will be able to custom program a hearing aid for your particular hearing requirements once we’re able to comprehend which frequencies you’re having trouble hearing. In modern digital hearing aids, if a frequency goes into the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid immediately knows if you’re able to hear that frequency. It can then make that frequency louder so you can hear it. Or it can change the frequency through frequency compression to a different frequency that you can hear. Additionally, they can enhance your ability to process background noise.
This delivers a smoother more normal hearing experience for the hearing aid wearer because instead of simply making everything louder, it’s meeting your personal hearing needs.
Make an appointment for a hearing exam today if you think you might be dealing with hearing loss. We can help.