It might seem, at first, like measuring hearing loss would be simple. If you’re dealing with hearing loss, you can probably hear some things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. You may confuse certain letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters just fine at whatever volume. It will become more evident why you notice inconsistencies with your hearing when you figure out how to interpret your hearing test. Because merely turning up the volume isn’t enough.
When I get my audiogram, how do I interpret it?
Hearing professionals will be able to get a read on the condition of your hearing by utilizing this type of hearing test. It won’t look as simple as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be fantastic if it did!)
Rather, it’s printed on a graph, and that’s why many find it confusing. But if you are aware of what you’re looking at, you too can understand the results of your audiogram.
Decoding the volume portion of your hearing test
Along the left side of the graph is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to around 120 (thunder). The higher the number, the louder the sound needs to be for you to hear it.
If you’re unable to hear any sound until it reaches around 30 dB then you have mild hearing loss which is a loss of volume between 26 and 45 dB. 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 indicates you’re dealing with 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.
Reading frequency on a hearing test
Volume isn’t the only thing you hear. You can also hear different frequencies or pitches of sound. Different types of sounds, including letters of the alphabet, are differentiated by frequency or pitch.
Along the bottom of the chart, you’ll usually see frequencies that a human ear can detect, starting from a low frequency of 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to a high frequency of 8000 (higher than a cricket)
This test will let us determine how well you can hear within a range of wavelengths.
So, for illustration, if you’re dealing with high-frequency hearing loss, in order for you to hear a high-frequency sound it might have to be at least 60 dB (which is about the volume of an elevated, but not yelling, voice). The volume that the sound needs to reach for you to hear specific frequencies varies and will be plotted on the chart.
Why tracking both volume and frequency is so important
Now that you understand how to interpret 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 common form of high frequency hearing loss:
- Higher pitched voices like women and children tend to have
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- “F”, “H”, “S”
While somebody who has high-frequency hearing loss has more difficulty with high-frequency sounds, some frequencies might seem easier to hear than others.
Within the inner ear tiny stereocilia (hair-like cells) shake 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. If all of the cells that pick up that frequency are damaged, then you entirely lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.
This type of hearing loss can make some communications with friends and family really aggravating. Your family members could think they have to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have difficulty hearing particular wavelengths. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister speaking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for people with this kind of hearing loss.
Hearing solutions can be personalized by a hearing professional by utilizing a hearing test
We will be able to custom program a hearing aid for your particular hearing needs once we’re able to comprehend which frequencies you’re having trouble hearing. Contemporary hearing aids have the ability to recognize precisely what frequencies enter the microphone. It can then make that frequency louder so you can hear it. Or it can make use of its frequency compression feature to adjust the frequency to one you can better hear. They also have functions that can make processing background sound easier.
This creates 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 may be dealing with hearing loss, call us and we can help.