Determining hearing loss is more complex than it might at first seem. 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 just fine at any volume. When you learn how to read your hearing test it becomes clearer why your hearing is “inconsistent”. Because merely turning up the volume isn’t enough.
How do I interpret the results of my audiogram?
An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals employ to ascertain how you hear. It won’t look as simple as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be great if it did!)
Many people find the graph format challenging at first. But if you understand what you’re looking at, you too can interpret the results of your audiogram.
Decoding the volume portion of your audiogram
The volume in Decibels is outlined on the left side of the graph (from 0 dB to around 120 dB). This number will define how loud a sound has to be for you to be capable of hearing it. Higher numbers mean that in order for you to hear it, you will require louder sound.
If you’re unable to hear any sound until it reaches 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 begins at 66-85 dB. If you can’t hear sound until it reaches 90 dB or more (louder than the volume of a running lawnmower), it means that you’re dealing with profound hearing loss.
Reading frequency on a hearing test
You hear other things besides volume also. You can also hear a range of frequencies or pitches of sound. 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 on the lower section of the graph.
We will check how well you’re able to hear frequencies in between and can then plot them on the chart.
So if you’re dealing with hearing loss in the higher wavelengths, you might need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as high as 60 dB (the volume of someone talking at a raised volume). 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 important
So in the real world, what might the results of this test mean for you? High-frequency hearing loss, which is a quite common form of loss would make it more difficult to hear or understand:
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- Higher pitched voices like women and children tend to have
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
Some particular frequencies may be harder for a person with high frequency hearing loss to hear, even within the higher frequency range.
Inside of the inner ear tiny stereocilia (hair-like cells) move in response to sound waves. If the cells that detect a certain 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 completely lose your ability to hear that frequency even at higher volumes.
Communicating with others can become really frustrating if you’re dealing with this type of hearing loss. Your family members could think they have to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have trouble hearing certain wavelengths. In addition, those who have this type of hearing impairment find background noise overshadows 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 tune a hearing aid for your particular hearing needs once we’re able to comprehend which frequencies you’re not able to hear. In contemporary digital hearing aids, if a frequency enters the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid automatically knows whether you can hear that frequency. It can then raise the volume on that frequency so you’re able to hear it. Or it can use its frequency compression feature to change the frequency to one you can better hear. They also have features that can make processing background sound easier.
This creates a smoother more natural hearing experience for the hearing aid wearer because rather than simply making everything louder, it’s meeting your personal hearing needs.
Make an appointment for a hearing exam today if you think you may be dealing with hearing loss. We can help.