Determining hearing loss is more technical than it may seem at first. You can most likely 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. When you figure out how to read your hearing test it becomes clearer why your hearing is “inconsistent”. That’s because there’s more to hearing than just turning up the volume.
How do I read the results of my audiogram?
Hearing professionals will be able to get a read on the condition of your hearing by utilizing this type of hearing test. It would be terrific if it looked as basic as a scale from one to ten, but sadly, that isn’t the case.
Rather, it’s printed on a graph, which is why many find it confusing. But you too can interpret a hearing test if you’re aware of what you’re looking at.
Examining volume on an audiogram
Along the left side of the graph is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to about 120 (thunder). This number will define how loud a sound needs 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.
A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB indicates mild hearing loss. If hearing begins at 45-65 dB then you’re dealing with moderate hearing loss. Hearing loss is severe if your hearing starts at 66-85 dB. If you are unable to hear sound until it reaches 90 dB or more (louder than the volume of a running lawnmower), it means that you have profound hearing loss.
The frequency section of your hearing test
Volume’s not the only thing you hear. You hear sound at varied frequencies, commonly known as pitches in music. Frequencies help you differentiate between types of sounds, including the letters of the alphabet.
Frequencies which a human ear can hear, from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are generally listed along the bottom of the graph.
This test will allow us to define how well you can hear within a span of wavelengths.
So, for example, 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 around the volume of an elevated, but not yelling, voice). The volume that the sound must reach for you to hear specific frequencies varies and will be plotted on the graph.
Is it important to track both frequency and volume?
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 harder to hear or comprehend:
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
- “F”, “H”, “S”
Some particular frequencies may be more difficult for a person who has high frequency hearing loss to hear, even within the higher frequency range.
Inside of your inner ear you have tiny hair-like nerve cells that vibrate with sounds. 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 detect that frequency are damaged, then you completely lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.
This type of hearing loss can make some communications with friends and family really frustrating. You might have trouble only hearing some frequencies, but your family members may think they have to yell to be heard at all. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister speaking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for people who have this kind of hearing loss.
We can use the hearing test to individualize hearing solutions
When we are able to recognize which frequencies you cannot hear well or at all, we can program a hearing aid to meet each ear’s unique hearing profile. Contemporary hearing aids have the ability to know precisely what frequencies go into the microphone. The hearing aid can be programmed to boost whatever frequency you’re having trouble hearing. Or it can utilize its frequency compression feature to adjust the frequency to one you can better hear. Additionally, they can enhance your ability to process background noise.
Modern hearing aids are fine tuned to address your specific hearing requirements instead of just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother listening experience.
If you believe you might be experiencing hearing loss, contact us and we can help.