It may seem, initially, like measuring hearing loss would be simple. You can probably hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. You might confuse particular letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters just fine at whatever volume. It will become more evident why you have inconsistencies with your hearing when you learn how to interpret your hearing test. Because simply turning up the volume isn’t enough.
When I get my audiogram, how do I decipher it?
An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals employ to ascertain how you hear. It won’t look as simple as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be fantastic if it did!)
Many people find the graph format confusing at first. But you too can interpret a hearing test if you know what you’re looking at.
Deciphering the volume portion of your hearing test
The volume in Decibels is listed on the left side of the graph (from 0 dB to around 120 dB). This number will determine how loud a sound needs to be for you to be capable of hearing it. Higher numbers signify that in order for you to hear it, you will require louder sound.
A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB signifies mild hearing loss. If hearing starts at 45-65 dB then you have moderate hearing loss. If you start 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 reaches 90 dB or more, which is louder than a lawnmower.
The frequency portion of your audiogram
Volume isn’t the only thing you hear. You hear sound at varied frequencies, commonly called pitches in music. Frequencies allow you to differentiate between types of sounds, and this includes the letters of the alphabet.
Frequencies which a human ear can hear, ranging from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are generally listed on the bottom of the chart.
We will check how well you’re able to hear frequencies in between and can then plot them on the graph.
So if you have hearing loss in the higher frequencies, you may need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as loud as 60 dB (the volume of someone talking at a raised volume). The chart will plot the volumes that the various frequencies will need to reach before you can hear them.
Is it significant to measure both frequency and volume?
Now that you know how to interpret your audiogram, let’s take a look at what those results may mean for you in the real world. High-frequency hearing loss, which is a quite common form of loss would make it more difficult to hear or comprehend:
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
Some particular frequencies might be harder for someone who has high frequency hearing loss to hear, even within the higher frequency range.
Within the inner ear tiny stereocilia (hair-like cells) vibrate in response to sound waves. If the cells that detect a certain frequency become damaged and ultimately die, you lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. If all of the cells that pick up that frequency are damaged, then you completely lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.
This kind of hearing loss can make some communications with loved ones really aggravating. Your family members may think they need to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have trouble hearing particular wavelengths. In addition to that, those with this type of hearing impairment find background sound overpowers 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 recognize which frequencies you cannot 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 enters the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid immediately knows whether you’re able to hear that frequency. 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 another frequency that you can hear. They also have functions that can make processing background sound less difficult.
This creates a smoother more normal hearing experience for the hearing aid wearer because instead of simply making everything louder, it’s meeting your personal hearing needs.
Schedule an appointment for a hearing exam right away if you think you might be suffering from hearing loss. We can help.