It might seem, initially, like measuring hearing loss would be easy. You can probably hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. You may confuse certain letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters perfectly fine at whatever volume. It will become more evident why you have inconsistencies with your hearing when you figure out how to interpret your hearing test. Because merely turning up the volume isn’t enough.
How do I interpret the results of my audiogram?
An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals employ to determine 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 perplexing. But you too can interpret a hearing test if you’re aware of what you’re looking at.
Deciphering the volume portion of your hearing test
On the left side of the chart is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to about 120 (thunder). The higher the number, the louder the sound needs to be for you to hear it.
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 volume between 26 and 45 dB. You have moderate hearing loss if your hearing starts at 45-65 dB. If you start hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it indicates you have severe hearing loss. Profound hearing loss means that you can’t hear until the volume reaches 90 dB or more, which is louder than a lawnmower.
Examining frequency on a audiogram
You hear other things besides volume too. You hear sound at varied frequencies, commonly called pitches in music. Different types of sounds, including letters of the alphabet, are differentiated by frequency or pitch.
Frequencies that a human ear can hear, from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are normally listed along the lower section of the graph.
This test will let us figure out how well you can hear within a range of wavelengths.
So if you’re dealing with hearing loss in the higher frequencies, you may need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as loud as 60 dB (the volume of someone talking at an elevated volume). The graph will plot the volumes that the different frequencies will have to reach before you’re able to hear them.
Why measuring both volume and frequency is so significant
Now that you understand how to read your hearing test, let’s look at what those results might mean for you in real life. Here are a few sounds that would be more difficult to hear if you have the very prevalent form of high frequency hearing loss:
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- Beeps, dings, and timers
While somebody with high-frequency hearing loss has more difficulty with high-frequency sounds, certain frequencies might seem easier to hear than others.
Inside of your inner ear you have very small hair-like nerve cells that shake along with sounds. If the cells that pick up a certain frequency become damaged and eventually die, you will lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. If all of the cells that pick up that frequency are damaged, then you totally lose your ability to hear that frequency even at higher volumes.
Communicating with other people can become really aggravating if you’re dealing with 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 trouble hearing certain frequencies. In addition to that, those with this kind of hearing impairment find background noise overshadows louder, higher-frequency sounds such as your sister talking to you in a restaurant.
Hearing solutions can be individualized by a hearing professional by utilizing a hearing test
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. In contemporary digital hearing aids, if a frequency enters the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid automatically knows if you can hear that frequency. The hearing aid can be fine tuned to boost whatever frequency you’re having difficulty hearing. Or it can alter the frequency through frequency compression to another frequency you can hear. They also have features that can make processing background sound simpler.
Modern hearing aids are programmed to target your specific hearing needs instead of just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother hearing experience.
Make an appointment for a hearing test right away if you think you might be dealing with hearing loss. We can help.