Measuring hearing loss is more complex than it may seem at first. You can most likely hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. Most letters may sound clear at any volume but others, such as “s” and “b” could get lost. It will become more obvious why you have inconsistencies with your hearing when you learn 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?
An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals employ to calculate how you hear. It would be wonderful if it looked as simple as a scale from one to ten, but regrettably, that isn’t the case.
Instead, it’s written on a graph, which is why many find it perplexing. But you too can interpret a hearing test if you know what you’re looking at.
Interpreting the volume section of your hearing test
Along the left side of the graph is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to about 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 indicates mild hearing loss. If hearing begins at 45-65 dB then you’re dealing with moderate hearing loss. If you start hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it means you have severe hearing loss. If you are unable to hear sound until it gets up to 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.
On the bottom of the chart, you’ll usually 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)
This test will allow us to ascertain how well you can hear within a range of frequencies.
So if you have hearing loss in the higher frequencies, you might need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as loud as 60 dB (the volume of somebody talking at an elevated volume). The volume that the sound needs to reach for you to hear each frequency varies and will be plotted on the chart.
Why tracking both volume and frequency is so significant
So in real life, what could the results of this test mean for you? High-frequency hearing loss, which is a very common type of loss would make it more difficult to hear or comprehend:
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
- Beeps, dings, and timers
Some specific frequencies may be more difficult for somebody with 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. If the cells that detect a specific frequency become damaged and eventually die, you lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. If all of the cells that detect that frequency are damaged, then you entirely lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.
This type of hearing loss can make some interactions with friends and family extremely aggravating. Your family members may think they need to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have trouble hearing certain wavelengths. On top of that, those with this kind of hearing loss find background sound overshadows louder, higher-frequency sounds such as your sister talking to you in a restaurant.
We can utilize the hearing test to individualize hearing solutions
When we can understand which frequencies you don’t hear well or at all, we can program a hearing aid to meet each ear’s distinct hearing profile. Contemporary hearing aids have the ability to recognize exactly what frequencies go into the microphone. It can then raise the volume on that frequency so you’re able to hear it. Or it can change the frequency by using frequency compression to a different frequency that you can hear. Additionally, they can improve your ability to process background noise.
Modern hearing aids are fine tuned to address your particular hearing needs instead of just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother hearing experience.
If you think you may be dealing with hearing loss, contact us and we can help.