It may seem, initially, like measuring hearing loss would be easy. You can most likely hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. The majority of letters may sound clear at high or low volumes but others, like “s” and “b” may get lost. It will become more evident why you notice inconsistencies with your hearing when you learn how to read your hearing test. Because simply turning up the volume isn’t enough.
How do I read the results of my audiogram?
An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals utilize to calculate how you hear. It won’t look as basic as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it did!)
Instead, it’s printed on a graph, which is why many individuals find it challenging. But if you know what you’re looking at, you too can interpret the results of your audiogram.
Decoding the volume portion of your audiogram
The volume in Decibels is listed on the left side of the chart (from 0 dB to about 120 dB). This number will identify how loud a sound has to be for you to be capable of hearing it. Higher numbers mean that in order for you to hear it, you will need louder sound.
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 volume between 26 and 45 dB. 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’re dealing with severe hearing loss. If you can’t hear sound until it gets up to 90 dB or more (louder than the volume of a running lawnmower), it means that you’re dealing with profound hearing loss.
Examining frequency on a audiogram
Volume isn’t the only thing you hear. You can also hear a range of frequencies or pitches of sound. Frequencies allow you to distinguish between types of sounds, and this includes the letters of the alphabet.
On the bottom of the graph, you’ll typically find frequencies that a human ear can detect, going from a low frequency of 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to a high frequency of 8000 (higher than a cricket)
We will test how well you hear frequencies in between and can then plot them on the graph.
So, for instance, if you’re dealing with 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 significant to measure both frequency and volume?
So in the real world, what might the outcome of this test mean for you? Here are a few sounds that would be tougher to hear if you have the very prevalent form of high frequency hearing loss:
- Higher pitched voices like women and children tend to have
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Beeps, dings, and timers
Some particular frequencies may be more challenging for somebody with high frequency hearing loss to hear, even in the higher frequency range.
Inside your inner ear you have tiny hair-like nerve cells that shake 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 have died. You will completely lose your ability to hear any frequencies that have lost all of the related hair cells.
Communicating with other people can become very aggravating if you’re dealing with this kind of hearing loss. Your family members might think they have to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have difficulty hearing certain wavelengths. In addition, those with this type of hearing impairment find background noise overshadows louder, higher-frequency sounds such as your sister talking to you in a restaurant.
We can use the hearing test to personalize hearing solutions
When we can recognize which frequencies you don’t hear well or at all, we can program a hearing aid to meet each ear’s distinct hearing profile. Modern hearing aids have the ability to recognize precisely what frequencies go into the microphone. It can then raise the volume on that frequency so you can hear it. Or it can use its frequency compression feature to adjust the frequency to one you can better hear. In addition, they can enhance your ability to process background noise.
Modern hearing aids are fine tuned to target your particular hearing needs rather than just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother listening experience.
Schedule an appointment for a hearing exam right away if you think you might be dealing with hearing loss. We can help.