It may seem, at first, like measuring hearing loss would be easy. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can probably hear certain things clearly at a lower volume, 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 evident why you notice inconsistencies with your hearing when you figure out how to interpret your hearing test. It’s because there’s more to hearing than just turning up the volume.
When I get my audiogram, how do I interpret it?
An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals use to determine how you hear. It would be great if it looked as simple as a scale from one to ten, but sadly, that isn’t the case.
Rather, it’s written on a graph, which is why many people find it perplexing. But you too can understand a hearing test if you know what you’re looking at.
Interpreting the volume section of your hearing test
Along the left side of the chart is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to about 120 (thunder). 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 signifies 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 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 have profound hearing loss.
Examining frequency on a hearing test
You hear other things besides volume also. 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.
Along the bottom of the chart, you’ll generally find frequencies that a human ear can hear, going 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 diagram them on the chart.
So if you have hearing loss in the higher wavelengths, you may need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as loud as 60 dB (the volume of someone talking at an elevated volume). The chart will plot the volumes that the different frequencies will have to reach before you can hear them.
Is it important to measure both frequency and volume?
So in the real world, what might the results of this test mean for you? High-frequency hearing loss, which is a very common type of loss would make it harder to hear or comprehend:
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
Certain specific frequencies may be more difficult for someone with high frequency hearing loss to hear, even in the higher frequency range.
Inside of the inner ear little stereocilia (hair-like cells) move in response to sound waves. You lose the ability to hear in whatever frequencies which the corresponding hair cells that detect 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 regardless of volume.
Communicating with other people can become very aggravating if you’re suffering from this type of hearing loss. You might have difficulty only hearing certain frequencies, but your family members may think they need to yell to be heard at all. In addition to that, those who have this type of hearing loss find background sound overpowers louder, higher-frequency sounds such as your sister speaking to you in a restaurant.
We can use the hearing test to individualize hearing solutions
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 contemporary digital hearing aids, if a frequency goes into the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid automatically knows whether you’re able to hear that frequency. It can then make that frequency louder so you can hear it. Or it can make use of its frequency compression feature to alter the frequency to one you can better hear. In addition, they can enhance your ability to process background noise.
This delivers a smoother more natural hearing experience for the hearing aid wearer because instead of just making everything louder, it’s meeting your personal hearing needs.
If you believe you might be experiencing hearing loss, call us and we can help.