It may seem, initially, like measuring hearing loss would be simple. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can probably hear some things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. The majority of letters may sound clear at high or low volumes but others, like “s” and “b” may get lost. When you learn how to understand your hearing test it becomes clearer why your hearing is “inconsistent”. That’s because there’s more to hearing than just cranking up the volume.
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 won’t look as straightforward as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be great if it did!)
Rather, it’s written on a graph, and that’s why many people find it confusing. But you too can interpret a hearing test if you know what you’re looking at.
Examining volume on an audiogram
The volume in Decibels is indexed on the left side of the chart (from 0 dB to about 120 dB). The higher the number, the louder the sound must be for you to hear it.
A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB signifies mild hearing loss. If hearing starts at 45-65 dB then you’re dealing with moderate hearing loss. If you start 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 reaches 90 dB or more, which is louder than a lawnmower.
The frequency portion of your audiogram
Volume’s not the only thing you hear. You can also hear a range of frequencies or pitches of sound. Different types of sounds, including letters of the alphabet, are distinguished by frequency or pitch.
On the bottom of the graph, you’ll generally find frequencies that a human ear can detect, starting 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 hear frequencies in between and can then plot them on the chart.
So, for example, 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 a raised, but not yelling, voice). The volume that the sound must reach for you to hear each frequency varies and will be plotted on the chart.
Why measuring both volume and frequency is so essential
Now that you know how to interpret your hearing test, let’s look at what those results may mean for you in the real world. High-frequency hearing loss, which is a quite common type of loss would make it harder to hear or comprehend:
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
- Beeps, dings, and timers
While somebody who has high-frequency hearing loss has more difficulty with high-frequency sounds, some frequencies may seem easier to hear than others.
Inside of 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 pick up those frequencies have become damaged and have 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 interactions with friends and family very frustrating. Your family members might think they need to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have difficulty hearing certain frequencies. In addition to that, those with this type of hearing impairment find background sound overshadows louder, higher-frequency sounds like your sister speaking to you in a restaurant.
Hearing solutions can be individualized by a hearing professional by using a hearing test
We will be able to custom program a hearing aid for your specific hearing requirements once we’re able to comprehend which frequencies you’re not able to hear. In contemporary digital hearing aids, if a frequency goes into the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid immediately knows whether you can hear that frequency. 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 features that can make processing background sound less difficult.
Modern hearing aids are fine tuned to target your specific hearing needs instead of just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother listening experience.
Schedule an appointment for a hearing test right away if you think you may be suffering from hearing loss. We can help.