It might seem, initially, like measuring hearing loss would be simple. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can most likely hear certain things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. The majority of letters may sound clear at any volume but others, like “s” and “b” may get lost. When you learn how to read your hearing test it becomes more obvious why your hearing seems “inconsistent”. Because merely turning up the volume isn’t enough.
When I get my audiogram, how do I interpret it?
An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals employ to ascertain how you hear. It would be great if it looked as simple as a scale from one to ten, but regrettably, that isn’t the case.
Many individuals find the graph format complicated at first. But you too can understand a hearing test if you know what you’re looking at.
Decoding the volume section of your hearing test
The volume in Decibels is outlined on the left side of the graph (from 0 dB to about 120 dB). The higher the number, the louder the sound needs to be for you to be able to hear it.
If you can’t hear any sound until it is about 30 dB then you have mild hearing loss which is a loss of volume between 26 and 45 dB. You have moderate hearing loss if your hearing begins at 45-65 dB. If you begin hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it means 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.
The frequency portion of your audiogram
Volume isn’t the only thing you hear. You can also hear different frequencies or pitches of sound. Different types of sounds, including letters of the alphabet, are distinguished by frequency or pitch.
On the lower section of the chart, you’ll usually see frequencies that a human ear can hear, going from a low frequency of 125 (deeper than a bullfrog) to a high frequency of 8000 (higher than a cricket)
We will check how well you’re able to hear frequencies in between and can then diagram them on the chart.
So, for illustration, 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 about the volume of an elevated, but not yelling, voice). The volume that the sound must reach for you to hear specific frequencies varies and will be plotted on the chart.
Is it important to measure both frequency and volume?
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 harder to hear or understand:
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
While a person who has high-frequency hearing loss has more difficulty with high-frequency sounds, some frequencies may seem easier to hear than others.
Inside your inner ear there are tiny hair-like nerve cells that move with sounds. If the cells that pick up a specific frequency become damaged and ultimately 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 totally lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.
Communicating with other people can become very frustrating if you’re dealing with this type of hearing loss. You may have trouble only hearing certain frequencies, but your family members may assume they have to yell in order for you to hear them at all. And higher frequency sounds, such as your sister speaking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for people with this type of hearing loss.
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 program a hearing aid to meet each ear’s unique hearing profile. In modern digital hearing aids, if a frequency goes into the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid automatically knows if you’re able to hear that frequency. It can then make that frequency louder so you can hear it. Or it can use its frequency compression feature to adjust the frequency to one you can hear better. Additionally, they can improve your ability to process background noise.
This delivers a smoother more normal hearing experience for the hearing aid wearer because instead of just making everything louder, it’s meeting your personal hearing needs.
If you believe you may be experiencing hearing loss, contact us and we can help.