It may 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 just fine at whatever volume. When you figure out how to interpret your hearing test it becomes clearer why your hearing seems “inconsistent”. It’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 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!)
Rather, it’s written on a graph, which is why many find it perplexing. But you too can interpret a hearing test if you’re aware of what you’re looking at.
Decoding the volume section of your hearing test
The volume in Decibels is listed on the left side of the graph (from 0 dB to about 120 dB). The higher the number, the louder the sound needs to be for you to be able to hear it.
If you can’t hear any sound until it is about 30 dB then you have mild hearing loss which is a loss of sound between 26 and 45 dB. If hearing begins at 45-65 dB then you have moderate hearing loss. Hearing loss is severe if your hearing starts at 66-85 dB. 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 audiogram
You hear other things besides volume also. You hear sound at different frequencies, commonly known as pitches in music. Frequencies help you differentiate between types of sounds, including the letters of the alphabet.
On the lower section of the chart, you’ll usually see frequencies that a human ear can hear, starting 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 hear frequencies in between and can then diagram them on the chart.
So, for instance, if you have 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 each frequency varies and will be plotted on the graph.
Is it significant to track both frequency and volume?
Now that you understand how to interpret your hearing test, let’s take a look at what those results may mean for you in real life. High-frequency hearing loss, which is a quite common form of loss would make it harder to hear or comprehend:
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
Certain particular frequencies might be more difficult for someone with high frequency hearing loss to hear, even within the higher frequency range.
Inside of your inner ear there are very small hair-like nerve cells that vibrate along with sounds. If the cells that detect a specific frequency become damaged and eventually die, you 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 type of hearing loss. Your family members may think they have to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have trouble hearing certain wavelengths. In addition to that, those who have this kind of hearing loss find background sound overshadows louder, higher-frequency sounds such as your sister speaking to you in a restaurant.
We can use the hearing test to personalize hearing solutions
When we can understand which frequencies you cannot hear well or at all, we can program a hearing aid to meet each ear’s distinct hearing profile. In modern digital hearing aids, if a frequency goes into the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid immediately knows if you’re able to hear that frequency. The hearing aid can be fine tuned to boost whatever frequency you’re having trouble hearing. Or it can make use of its frequency compression feature to adjust the frequency to one you can hear better. They also have functions that can make processing background sound less difficult.
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.
Make an appointment for a hearing test right away if you think you may be dealing with hearing loss. We can help.