It might seem, initially, like measuring hearing loss would be easy. You can most likely hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. The majority of letters may sound clear at high or low volumes but others, like “s” and “b” may get lost. When you learn how to understand your hearing test it becomes more obvious why your hearing is “inconsistent”. Because simply turning up the volume isn’t enough.
When I get my audiogram, how do I interpret it?
Hearing professionals will be able to determine the condition of your hearing by making use of this type of hearing test. It won’t look as straightforward as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be fantastic if it did!)
Many people find the graph format confusing at first. But if you know what you’re looking at, you too can understand the results of your audiogram.
Deciphering the volume section of your hearing test
On the left side of the chart is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to around 120 (thunder). This number will define how loud a sound has to be for you to be able to hear 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. You have moderate hearing loss if your hearing starts at 45-65 dB. If you start hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it means you have severe hearing loss. 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 have profound hearing loss.
The frequency section of your 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 that a human ear can hear, from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are normally listed along the bottom of the chart.
We will test how well you hear frequencies in between and can then diagram 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 graph.
Why measuring both volume and frequency is so significant
So in real life, what could the results of this test mean for you? Here are a few sounds that would be more difficult to hear if you have the very prevalent form of high frequency hearing loss:
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
While somebody with high-frequency hearing loss has more difficulty with high-frequency sounds, some 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 will lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. If all of the cells that pick up that frequency are damaged, then you entirely lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.
This type of hearing loss can make some communications with friends and family extremely aggravating. You might have trouble only hearing specific frequencies, but your family members may think they have to yell to be heard at all. And higher frequency sounds, such as your sister speaking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for individuals who have this kind of hearing loss.
Hearing solutions can be personalized by a hearing professional by utilizing 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 having trouble hearing. In modern digital hearing aids, if a frequency goes into the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid instantly knows if you’re able to hear that frequency. It can then make that frequency louder so you can hear it. Or it can alter the frequency through frequency compression to a different frequency that you can hear. Additionally, they can improve your ability to process background noise.
Modern hearing aids are programmed to address your specific hearing needs instead of just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother listening experience.
If you think you might be dealing with hearing loss, contact us and we can help.