It may seem, at first, like measuring hearing loss would be easy. You can probably hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. You may confuse particular letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters just fine at any volume. It will become more apparent why you notice inconsistencies with your hearing when you learn how to interpret 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 employ to determine how you hear. It would be great if it looked as simple as a scale from one to ten, but unfortunately, that isn’t the situation.
Many individuals find the graph format challenging at first. But you too can interpret a hearing test if you know what you’re looking at.
Interpreting the volume section of your audiogram
The volume in Decibels is listed on the left side of the graph (from 0 dB to around 120 dB). The higher the number, the louder the sound must be for you to hear it.
A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB indicates mild hearing loss. You have moderate hearing loss if your hearing starts at 45-65 dB. If you begin hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it means you have severe hearing loss. Profound hearing loss means that you can’t hear until the volume gets up to 90 dB or more, which is louder than a lawnmower.
Examining frequency on a audiogram
You hear other things besides volume also. You hear sound at different frequencies, commonly known as pitches in music. Different types of sounds, including letters of the alphabet, are distinguished by frequency or pitch.
Along the lower section of the chart, you’ll generally find frequencies that a human ear can detect, 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 diagram them on the graph.
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 a raised, but not yelling, voice). The graph will plot the volumes that the various frequencies will have to reach before you can hear them.
Why measuring both volume and frequency is so important
Now that you know how to read your hearing test, let’s look at what those results may mean for you in real life. Here are a few sounds that would be tougher to hear if you have the very common form of high frequency hearing loss:
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Beeps, dings, and timers
Certain specific frequencies might be more difficult for someone with high frequency hearing loss to hear, even within the higher frequency range.
Inside your inner ear you have tiny hair-like nerve cells that vibrate along with sounds. If the cells that detect a specific frequency become damaged and ultimately die, you will lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. If all of the cells that detect that frequency are damaged, then you completely lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.
Interacting with others can become extremely aggravating if you’re suffering from this kind of hearing loss. Your family members could think they have to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have trouble hearing particular frequencies. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister speaking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for individuals who have this type of hearing loss.
We can utilize the hearing test to personalize hearing solutions
When we can understand which frequencies you can’t hear well or at all, we can fine tune a hearing aid to meet each ear’s distinct hearing profile. In contemporary digital hearing aids, if a frequency goes into the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid instantly knows if you’re able to hear that frequency. The hearing aid can be programmed to boost whatever frequency you’re having trouble hearing. Or it can adjust the frequency through frequency compression to another frequency you can hear. They also have features that can make processing background sound less difficult.
This delivers a smoother more natural hearing experience for the hearing aid wearer because instead of just making everything louder, it’s meeting your personal hearing needs.
If you believe you might be dealing with hearing loss, call us and we can help.