Measuring hearing loss is more technical than it may at first seem. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can probably hear some things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. The majority of letters may sound clear at high or low volumes but others, like “s” and “b” could get lost. It will become more apparent why you have inconsistencies with your hearing when you figure out how to interpret your hearing test. That’s because there’s more to hearing than just turning up the volume.
When I get my audiogram, how do I interpret it?
Hearing professionals will be able to determine the state of your hearing by utilizing this type of hearing test. It would be wonderful if it looked as basic as a scale from one to ten, but sadly, that’s not the case.
Many individuals find the graph format complicated at first. But if you understand what you’re looking at, you too can interpret the results of your audiogram.
Decoding the volume portion of your audiogram
On 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 hear it.
If you’re unable to hear any sound until it reaches about 30 dB then you’re dealing with mild hearing loss which is a loss of sound between 26 and 45 dB. You have moderate hearing loss if your hearing begins at 45-65 dB. Hearing loss is severe if your hearing starts at 66-85 dB. 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.
Examining frequency on a hearing test
You hear other things besides volume also. You can also hear a range of frequencies or pitches of sound. Different types of sounds, including letters of the alphabet, are distinguished by frequency or pitch.
Frequencies which a human ear can hear, from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are typically listed along the lower section of the graph.
We will check how well you’re able to hear frequencies in between and can then plot them on the graph.
So, for instance, 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 must reach for you to hear specific frequencies varies and will be plotted on the graph.
Why tracking both volume and frequency is so essential
So in real life, what could the outcome of this test mean for you? Here are a few sounds that would be harder to hear if you have the very prevalent form of high frequency hearing loss:
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
- Beeps, dings, and timers
Certain particular frequencies may be more challenging for somebody who has high frequency hearing loss to hear, even within the higher frequency range.
Inside of the inner ear little stereocilia (hair-like cells) vibrate in response to sound waves. You lose the ability to hear in whatever frequencies which the corresponding hair cells that pick up those frequencies have become damaged and have died. If all of the cells that detect that frequency are damaged, then you totally lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.
This kind of hearing loss can make some interactions with friends and family really frustrating. Your family members could think they need to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have difficulty hearing certain wavelengths. And higher frequency sounds, such as your sister talking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for individuals with this type of hearing loss.
We can use the hearing test to individualize hearing solutions
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 unique hearing profile. In contemporary digital hearing aids, if a frequency goes into the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid automatically 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 change the frequency by using frequency compression to another frequency that you can hear. They also have functions that can make processing background sound less difficult.
This creates a smoother more natural hearing experience for the hearing aid user because rather than simply making everything louder, it’s meeting your unique hearing needs.
Schedule an appointment for a hearing exam today if you think you may be suffering from hearing loss. We can help.