Measuring hearing loss is more technical than it may at first seem. You can probably hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. You might confuse certain letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters just fine at whatever volume. When you learn how to understand your hearing test it becomes more obvious why your hearing seems “inconsistent”. Because simply turning up the volume isn’t enough.
How do I read the results of my audiogram?
Hearing professionals will be able to get a read on the state of your hearing by using this type of hearing test. It won’t look as straightforward as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it did!)
Many people find the graph format confusing at first. But you too can interpret a hearing test if you’re aware of what you’re looking at.
Interpreting the volume section of your audiogram
Along the left side of the graph is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to around 120 (thunder). This number will determine how loud a sound needs 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.
A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB points to mild hearing loss. You have moderate hearing loss if your hearing begins at 45-65 dB. If you begin hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it indicates 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’re dealing with profound hearing loss.
Examining frequency on a audiogram
Volume’s not the only thing you hear. You hear sound at different frequencies, commonly known as pitches in music. Different types of sounds, including letters of the alphabet, are distinguished by frequency or pitch.
Along the lower section of the chart, you’ll typically see frequencies that a human ear can detect, starting from a low frequency of 125 (deeper 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 plot them on the graph.
So if you’re dealing with hearing loss in the higher wavelengths, you might need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as loud as 60 dB (the volume of someone talking at an elevated volume). The volume that the sound needs to reach for you to hear each frequency varies and will be plotted on the chart.
Why tracking both volume and frequency is so significant
So in real life, what could the outcome 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:
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- “F”, “H”, “S”
While a person who has high-frequency hearing loss has more difficulty with high-frequency sounds, some frequencies may seem easier to hear than others.
Inside of the inner ear tiny stereocilia (hair-like cells) vibrate in response to sound waves. You lose the ability to hear in whatever frequencies which the corresponding hair cells that pick up those frequencies have become damaged and have died. If all of the cells that detect that frequency are damaged, then you completely lose your ability to hear that frequency even at higher volumes.
Communicating with others can become extremely frustrating if you’re suffering from this type of hearing loss. You might have difficulty only hearing specific frequencies, but your family members may assume they need 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 individuals who have this kind of hearing loss.
We can utilize the hearing test to individualize hearing solutions
We will be able to custom tune a hearing aid for your particular hearing requirements once we’re able to understand which frequencies you’re not able to hear. Modern hearing aids have the ability to know exactly what frequencies go into the microphone. It can then raise the volume on that frequency so you can hear it. Or it can adjust the frequency by using frequency compression to another frequency you can hear. They also have functions that can make processing background sound easier.
This delivers a smoother more normal hearing experience for the hearing aid user because rather than simply making everything louder, it’s meeting your unique hearing needs.
If you believe you might be dealing with hearing loss, contact us and we can help.