Measuring hearing loss is more complex than it might seem at first. You can probably hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. You might confuse certain letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters just fine at any volume. It will become more obvious why you have inconsistencies with your hearing when you learn how to read your hearing test. That’s because there’s more to hearing than simply cranking up the volume.
How do I understand the results of my audiogram?
An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals utilize to determine how you hear. It won’t look as basic as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be great if it did!)
Instead, it’s written on a graph, which is why many find it confusing. But you too can understand a hearing test if you know what you’re looking at.
Reading volume on an audiogram
Along the left side of the graph is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to around 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.
If you can’t hear any sound until it is about 30 dB then you’re dealing with mild hearing loss which is a loss of sound between 26 and 45 dB. 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’re dealing with severe hearing loss. If you are unable to 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.
The frequency section of your audiogram
You hear other things besides volume too. You can also hear a range of frequencies or pitches of sound. Different types of sounds, including letters of the alphabet, are differentiated by frequency or pitch.
On the bottom of the chart, you’ll typically find frequencies that a human ear can detect, going from a low frequency of 125 (deeper 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 if you’re dealing with hearing loss in the higher frequencies, you may need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as high as 60 dB (the volume of somebody talking at a raised volume). The volume that the sound needs to reach for you to hear each frequency varies and will be plotted on the graph.
Why tracking both volume and frequency is so essential
Now that you know how to read your audiogram, let’s have a look at what those results may mean for you in real life. 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
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Higher pitched voices like women and children tend to have
- Beeps, dings, and timers
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 very small hair-like nerve cells that shake with sounds. You lose the ability to hear in whatever frequencies which the corresponding hair cells that detect those frequencies have become damaged and have died. 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.
Communicating with others can become extremely frustrating if you’re suffering from this kind of hearing loss. Your family members may think they need to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have difficulty hearing particular frequencies. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister talking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for individuals with this type of hearing loss.
We can utilize the hearing test to individualize hearing solutions
When we can recognize 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. Modern hearing aids have the ability to recognize precisely what frequencies enter the microphone. The hearing aid can be programmed to boost whatever frequency you’re having difficulty hearing. Or it can utilize its frequency compression feature to adjust the frequency to one you can better hear. They also have functions that can make processing background sound simpler.
This delivers a smoother more natural hearing experience for the hearing aid wearer because instead of simply making everything louder, it’s meeting your personal hearing needs.
Make an appointment for a hearing exam today if you think you might be suffering from hearing loss. We can help.