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 might confuse particular letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters just fine at any volume. It will become more evident why you notice inconsistencies with your hearing when you learn how to read your hearing test. Because merely turning up the volume isn’t enough.
When I get my audiogram, how do I decipher it?
Hearing professionals will be able to get a read on the condition of your hearing by making use of this type of hearing test. It won’t look as basic as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be fantastic if it did!)
Many individuals find the graph format challenging at first. But if you understand what you’re looking at, you too can understand the results of your audiogram.
Reading volume on a hearing test
On the left side of the chart is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to about 120 (thunder). This number will define 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 require louder sound.
A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB points to mild hearing loss. If hearing begins at 45-65 dB then you have moderate hearing loss. If you start hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it means you’re dealing with severe hearing loss. If you can’t hear sound until it gets up to 90 dB or more (louder than the volume of a running lawnmower), it means that you have profound hearing loss.
The frequency portion of your hearing test
You hear other things besides volume too. You can also hear different frequencies or pitches of sound. Frequencies help you distinguish between types of sounds, and this includes the letters of the alphabet.
Frequencies which a human ear can hear, ranging from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are normally listed on the lower section of the graph.
This test will let us define how well you can hear within a span of frequencies.
So, for example, if you have high-frequency hearing loss, in order for you to hear a high-frequency sound it may 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.
Why measuring both volume and frequency is so essential
Now that you understand how to interpret your hearing test, let’s have a look at what those results may mean for you in the real world. Here are some sounds that would be more difficult to hear if you have the very common form of high frequency hearing loss:
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Beeps, dings, and timers
While a person who has high-frequency hearing loss has more trouble with high-frequency sounds, certain frequencies may seem easier to hear than others.
Within the inner ear tiny stereocilia (hair-like cells) vibrate in response to sound waves. If the cells that detect a specific frequency become damaged and eventually die, you lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. You will completely lose your ability to hear any frequencies that have lost all of the corresponding hair cells.
This type of hearing loss can make some communications with loved ones really aggravating. Your family members may think they have to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have trouble hearing certain frequencies. In addition, those with this type of hearing impairment find background noise overpowers louder, higher-frequency sounds like your sister talking to you in a restaurant.
Hearing solutions can be personalized by a hearing professional by using 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 not able to hear. Modern hearing aids have the ability to know precisely what frequencies enter the microphone. 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 change the frequency to one you can better hear. In addition, they can improve your ability to process background noise.
This delivers a smoother more natural hearing experience for the hearing aid wearer because rather than simply making everything louder, it’s meeting your unique hearing needs.
If you think you might be dealing with hearing loss, contact us and we can help.