It may seem, at first, like measuring hearing loss would be easy. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can probably hear certain things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. Most letters may sound clear at high or low volumes but others, such as “s” and “b” may get lost. When you learn how to read your hearing test it becomes more obvious why your hearing seems “inconsistent”. That’s because there’s more to hearing than simply turning up the volume.
When I get my audiogram, how do I decipher it?
Hearing professionals will be able to get a read on the condition of your hearing by utilizing this type of hearing test. It won’t look as simple as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be great if it did!)
Instead, it’s written on a graph, which is why many people find it confusing. But you too can understand a hearing test if you’re aware of what you’re looking at.
Looking at volume on a hearing test
Along the left side of the chart 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.
A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB points to mild hearing loss. If hearing starts at 45-65 dB then you’re dealing with moderate hearing loss. If you begin hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it indicates 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.
Reading frequency on a audiogram
You hear other things besides volume also. You hear sound at varied frequencies, commonly known as pitches in music. Frequencies allow you to differentiate between types of sounds, including the letters of the alphabet.
Frequencies that a human ear can hear, 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’re able to 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 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 important to track both frequency and volume?
Now that you understand how to read your audiogram, let’s take a look at what those results might mean for you in the real world. High-frequency hearing loss, which is a very common type of loss would make it more difficult to hear or comprehend:
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- Higher pitched voices like women and children tend to have
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
While a person with high-frequency hearing loss has more trouble with high-frequency sounds, certain frequencies may seem easier to hear than others.
Inside of your inner ear you have very small hair-like nerve cells that shake along with sounds. You lose the ability to hear in whatever frequencies which the corresponding hair cells that pick up those frequencies have become damaged and died. If all of the cells that detect that frequency are damaged, then you totally lose your ability to hear that frequency even at higher volumes.
Communicating with others can become very frustrating if you’re dealing with this type of hearing loss. Your family members could think they need to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have trouble hearing particular frequencies. And higher frequency sounds, such as your sister talking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for individuals with this kind of hearing loss.
We can utilize the hearing test to personalize hearing solutions
When we are able to understand which frequencies you don’t hear well or at all, we can fine tune a hearing aid to meet each ear’s unique hearing profile. Contemporary hearing aids have the ability to know exactly 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 a different frequency you can hear. In addition, they can enhance your ability to process background noise.
Modern hearing aids are fine tuned to target your specific hearing requirements rather than just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother listening experience.
Make an appointment for a hearing exam today if you think you might be dealing with hearing loss. We can help.