Measuring hearing loss is more technical than it might at first seem. If you’re dealing with hearing loss, you can most likely hear certain things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. Most letters may sound clear at high or low volumes but others, such as “s” and “b” may get lost. When you figure out how to understand your hearing test it becomes more obvious why your hearing is “inconsistent”. That’s because there’s more to hearing than simply turning up the volume.
How do I read the results of my audiogram?
An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals utilize to calculate how you hear. It would be terrific if it looked as simple as a scale from one to ten, but unfortunately, that’s not the situation.
Instead, it’s printed on a graph, which is why many people find it challenging. But if you are aware of what you’re looking at, you too can interpret the results of your audiogram.
Interpreting the volume section of your hearing test
The volume in Decibels is detailed on the left side of the chart (from 0 dB to around 120 dB). This number will determine how loud a sound has to be for you to be capable of hearing it. Higher numbers signify that in order for you to hear it, you will need louder sound.
If you’re unable to hear any sound until it reaches about 30 dB then you’re dealing with mild hearing loss which is a loss of volume between 26 and 45 dB. If hearing begins at 45-65 dB then you’re dealing with moderate hearing loss. If you start hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it indicates you’re dealing with severe hearing loss. Profound hearing loss means that you can’t hear until the volume gets up to 90 dB or more, which is louder than a lawnmower.
The frequency portion of your hearing test
Volume isn’t the only thing you hear. You hear sound at different frequencies, commonly known as pitches in music. Different types of sounds, including letters of the alphabet, are differentiated by frequency or pitch.
Along the lower section of the graph, you’ll typically find frequencies that a human ear can hear, going from a low frequency of 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to a high frequency of 8000 (higher than a cricket)
We will test how well you’re able to hear frequencies in between and can then plot them on the graph.
So if you have hearing loss in the higher wavelengths, you may need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as loud as 60 dB (the volume of somebody talking at a raised volume). The chart will plot the volumes that the various frequencies will need to reach before you can hear them.
Is it essential to measure both frequency and volume?
So in real life, what might the outcome of this test mean for you? High-frequency hearing loss, which is a very common form of loss would make it more difficult to hear or comprehend:
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
- “F”, “H”, “S”
Some particular frequencies may be more difficult for someone with high frequency hearing loss to hear, even within the higher frequency range.
Inside of the inner ear tiny stereocilia (hair-like cells) move in response to sound waves. If the cells that detect a certain frequency become damaged and ultimately die, you lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. You will entirely lose your ability to hear any frequencies that have lost all of the related hair cells.
This type of hearing loss can make some communications with loved ones really aggravating. You may have difficulty only hearing certain frequencies, but your family members may assume they need to yell to be heard at all. In addition to that, those with this kind of hearing impairment find background sound overpowers 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
When we are able to recognize which frequencies you can’t hear well or at all, we can fine tune a hearing aid to meet each ear’s distinct hearing profile. Modern hearing aids have the ability to recognize exactly what frequencies enter the microphone. The hearing aid can be programmed to boost whatever frequency you’re having difficulty hearing. Or it can adjust the frequency through frequency compression to another frequency that you can hear. They also have functions that can make processing background sound easier.
Modern hearing aids are programmed to target your specific hearing needs rather than just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother listening experience.
If you believe you may be dealing with hearing loss, contact us and we can help.