It might seem, at first, like measuring hearing loss would be easy. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can probably hear some things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. You might confuse particular letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters perfectly fine at whatever volume. It will become more apparent why you notice inconsistencies with your hearing when you learn how to interpret your hearing test. Because simply turning up the volume isn’t enough.
How do I read the results of my audiogram?
Hearing professionals will be able to get a read on the state of your hearing by using this type of hearing test. It won’t look as straightforward as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be fantastic if it did!)
Many individuals find the graph format confusing at first. But if you understand what you’re looking at, you too can understand the results of your audiogram.
Interpreting the volume section of your audiogram
The volume in Decibels is detailed on the left side of the graph (from 0 dB to about 120 dB). This number will specify how loud a sound needs to be for you to be capable of hearing 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 have mild hearing loss which is a loss of volume between 26 and 45 dB. You’re dealing with moderate hearing loss if your hearing starts at 45-65 dB. If you begin hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it means you’re dealing with severe hearing loss. Profound hearing loss means that you’re unable to hear until the volume gets up to 90 dB or more, which is louder than a lawnmower.
The frequency portion of your hearing test
You hear other things besides volume also. You can also hear different frequencies or pitches of sound. Frequencies allow you to distinguish between types of sounds, and this includes the letters of the alphabet.
Frequencies that a human ear can hear, ranging from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are typically listed along the lower section of the chart.
We will test how well you hear frequencies in between and can then diagram them on the chart.
So if you have hearing loss in the higher wavelengths, you may need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as high as 60 dB (the volume of someone talking at an elevated volume). The graph will plot the volumes that the different frequencies will need to reach before you can hear them.
Why tracking both volume and frequency is so essential
So in real life, what could the results of this test mean for you? High-frequency hearing loss, which is a quite common type of loss would make it more difficult to hear or understand:
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
While a person who has high-frequency hearing loss has more difficulty with high-frequency sounds, certain frequencies may seem easier to hear than others.
Within the inner ear little stereocilia (hair-like cells) vibrate in response to sound waves. You lose the ability to hear in whatever frequencies which the corresponding hair cells that detect those frequencies have become damaged and died. You will totally lose your ability to hear any frequencies that have lost all of the related hair cells.
This kind of hearing loss can make some communications with friends and family extremely frustrating. You may have difficulty only hearing certain frequencies, but your family members may assume they have to yell in order for you to hear them at all. In addition, those who have this type of hearing loss find background sound overpowers louder, higher-frequency sounds such as your sister speaking to you in a restaurant.
We can utilize the hearing test to individualize hearing solutions
When we are able to recognize which frequencies you don’t 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 enters the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid immediately knows if you’re able to hear that frequency. The hearing aid can be fine tuned to boost whatever frequency you’re having trouble hearing. Or it can alter the frequency by using frequency compression to another frequency you can hear. Additionally, they can improve your ability to process background noise.
This produces a smoother more natural hearing experience for the hearing aid user because rather than simply making everything louder, it’s meeting your unique hearing needs.
If you believe you might be experiencing hearing loss, call us and we can help.