Measuring hearing loss is more technical than it might seem at first. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can most likely hear certain things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. You may confuse certain letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters perfectly fine at any volume. It will become more obvious why you have inconsistencies with your hearing when you figure out how to read your hearing test. That’s because there’s more to hearing than simply cranking up the volume.
How do I interpret the results of my audiogram?
An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals use to determine how you hear. It would be terrific if it looked as simple as a scale from one to ten, but sadly, that isn’t the case.
Rather, it’s written on a graph, which is why many individuals find it confusing. But you too can interpret a hearing test if you know what you’re looking at.
Deciphering the volume portion of your audiogram
On the left side of the graph is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to about 120 (thunder). This number will identify 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 require louder sound.
A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB points to mild hearing loss. You’re dealing with moderate hearing loss if your hearing begins at 45-65 dB. If you begin hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it indicates 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’re dealing with profound hearing loss.
Reading frequency on a hearing test
Volume isn’t the only thing you hear. 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, ranging from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are typically listed along the bottom of the graph.
This test will allow us to ascertain how well you can hear within a range of wavelengths.
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 a raised, but not yelling, voice). The volume that the sound needs to reach for you to hear each frequency varies and will be plotted on the graph.
Is it significant to measure both frequency and volume?
So in real life, what might the outcome of this test mean for you? Here are some sounds that would be tougher to hear if you have the very common form of high frequency hearing loss:
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
Certain specific frequencies might be more difficult for somebody with high frequency hearing loss to hear, even in the higher frequency range.
Inside your inner ear you have very small hair-like nerve cells that vibrate 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 entirely lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.
Interacting with others can become extremely aggravating if you’re dealing with this type of hearing loss. You might have difficulty only hearing certain frequencies, but your family members may assume they need to yell in order for you to hear them at all. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister speaking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for people who have this type of hearing loss.
We can use the hearing test to individualize hearing solutions
When we can 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. In contemporary digital hearing aids, if a frequency goes into the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid immediately knows whether you can hear that frequency. The hearing aid can be fine tuned to boost whatever frequency you’re having trouble hearing. Or it can use its frequency compression feature to alter the frequency to one you can better hear. Additionally, they can enhance your ability to process background noise.
This produces a smoother more normal hearing experience for the hearing aid wearer because rather than just making everything louder, it’s meeting your personal hearing needs.
If you believe you may be dealing with hearing loss, call us and we can help.