Measuring hearing loss is more technical than it might seem at first. You can most likely hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. Most letters might sound clear at high or low volumes but others, such as “s” and “b” could get lost. It will become more apparent why you have inconsistencies with your hearing when you figure out how to interpret your hearing test. It’s because there’s more to hearing than simply cranking up the volume.
When I get my audiogram, how do I decipher it?
An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals utilize to determine how you hear. It would be great if it looked as basic as a scale from one to ten, but sadly, that’s not the case.
Rather, it’s written on a graph, which is why many individuals find it challenging. But if you are aware of what you’re looking at, you too can understand the results of your audiogram.
Looking at volume on a hearing test
The volume in Decibels is listed on the left side of the graph (from 0 dB to around 120 dB). The higher the number, the louder the sound needs to be for you to be able to hear it.
A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB indicates mild hearing loss. You have moderate hearing loss if your hearing starts at 45-65 dB. Hearing loss is severe if your hearing begins at 66-85 dB. Profound hearing loss means that you’re unable to hear until the volume reaches 90 dB or more, which is louder than a lawnmower.
Examining frequency on a hearing test
Volume’s not the only thing you hear. You can also hear a range of frequencies or pitches of sound. Frequencies help you distinguish between types of sounds, and this includes the letters of the alphabet.
On the lower section of the chart, you’ll generally 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)
This test will let us define how well you can hear within a span of frequencies.
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 each frequency varies and will be plotted on the chart.
Why measuring both volume and frequency is so significant
Now that you understand how to interpret your audiogram, let’s have a look at what those results may mean for you in the real world. High-frequency hearing loss, which is a quite common type of loss would make it harder to hear or understand:
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
- Beeps, dings, and timers
While somebody who has high-frequency hearing loss has more trouble with high-frequency sounds, certain frequencies may seem easier to hear than others.
Inside of your inner ear you have very small hair-like nerve cells that move along with sounds. If the cells that detect a specific frequency become damaged and ultimately die, you lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. If all of the cells that detect that frequency are damaged, then you totally lose your ability to hear that frequency even at higher volumes.
Interacting with other people can become really aggravating if you’re suffering from this kind of hearing loss. You might have trouble only hearing specific frequencies, but your family members may assume they have to yell to be heard at all. And higher frequency sounds, such as your sister talking 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
When we are able to recognize which frequencies you can’t hear well or at all, we can program a hearing aid to meet each ear’s unique hearing profile. Modern hearing aids have the ability to recognize exactly what frequencies go into the microphone. The hearing aid can be fine tuned to boost whatever frequency you’re having trouble hearing. Or it can adjust the frequency through frequency compression to another frequency you can hear. They also have functions that can make processing background sound less difficult.
This produces a smoother more normal hearing experience for the hearing aid wearer because instead of simply making everything louder, it’s meeting your personal hearing needs.
If you believe you might be experiencing hearing loss, contact us and we can help.