It may seem, initially, like measuring hearing loss would be simple. You can most likely hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. The majority of letters might sound clear at high or low volumes but others, such as “s” and “b” may get lost. When you figure out how to understand your hearing test it becomes more obvious why your hearing seems “inconsistent”. Because merely turning up the volume isn’t enough.
How do I understand the results of my audiogram?
An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals use to ascertain how you hear. It won’t look as straightforward as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be fantastic if it did!)
Many people find the graph format confusing at first. But if you know what you’re looking at, you too can understand the results of your audiogram.
Looking at volume on a hearing test
Along the left side of the chart is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to around 120 (thunder). The higher the number, the louder the sound needs to be for you to be able to hear it.
A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB signifies mild hearing loss. You’re dealing with moderate hearing loss if your hearing starts at 45-65 dB. If you start hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it means you’re dealing with severe hearing loss. If you can’t hear sound until it reaches 90 dB or more (louder than the volume of a running lawnmower), it means that you have profound hearing loss.
Reading frequency on a audiogram
You hear other things besides volume too. You hear sound at different frequencies, commonly called pitches in music. Different types of sounds, including letters of the alphabet, are differentiated by frequency or pitch.
Along the lower section of the graph, you’ll generally see frequencies that a human ear can hear, starting from a low frequency of 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to a high frequency of 8000 (higher than a cricket)
We will test how well you hear frequencies in between and can then plot them on the chart.
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 volume that the sound must 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 look at what those results may mean for you in the real world. High-frequency hearing loss, which is a very common type of loss would make it harder to hear or comprehend:
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
While someone who has high-frequency hearing loss has more difficulty with high-frequency sounds, some frequencies may seem easier to hear than others.
Within the inner ear little stereocilia (hair-like cells) move in response to sound waves. If the cells that pick up a specific frequency become damaged and ultimately die, you lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. If all of the cells that pick up that frequency are damaged, then you completely lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.
Communicating with other people can become very frustrating if you’re dealing with this type of hearing loss. Your family members may think they have to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have trouble hearing particular wavelengths. In addition, those with this kind of hearing loss find background noise overshadows louder, higher-frequency sounds such as your sister speaking to you in a restaurant.
Hearing solutions can be individualized by a hearing professional by utilizing a hearing test
We will be able to custom program a hearing aid for your particular hearing needs once we’re able to comprehend which frequencies you’re not able to hear. Contemporary hearing aids have the ability to recognize precisely what frequencies go into the microphone. The hearing aid can be fine tuned to boost whatever frequency you’re having difficulty hearing. Or it can use its frequency compression feature to alter the frequency to one you can better hear. Additionally, they can improve your ability to process background noise.
This produces a smoother more natural hearing experience for the hearing aid user because rather than simply making everything louder, it’s meeting your personal hearing needs.
Schedule an appointment for a hearing exam today if you think you may be suffering from hearing loss. We can help.