Determining hearing loss is more technical than it may seem at first. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can probably hear some things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. The majority of letters might sound clear at high or low volumes but others, like “s” and “b” may get lost. It will become more obvious why you have inconsistencies with your hearing when you learn how to read your hearing test. It’s because there’s more to hearing than simply cranking up the volume.
How do I understand the results of my audiogram?
An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals utilize to calculate 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 individuals find the graph format challenging at first. But if you are aware of what you’re looking at, you too can interpret the results of your audiogram.
Decoding the volume portion of your audiogram
On the left side of the graph 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 hear it.
If you can’t hear any sound until it is around 30 dB then you have mild hearing loss which is a loss of volume between 26 and 45 dB. You’re dealing with moderate hearing loss if your hearing starts at 45-65 dB. If you begin hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it indicates you have severe hearing loss. If you are unable to 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.
The frequency portion of your audiogram
You hear other things besides volume also. You hear sound at varied frequencies, commonly known as pitches in music. Different types of sounds, including letters of the alphabet, are distinguished by frequency or pitch.
Frequencies that a human ear can hear, from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are typically listed on the bottom of the graph.
We will test how well you hear frequencies in between and can then diagram them on the chart.
So, for instance, 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 about the volume of a raised, but not yelling, voice). The volume that the sound needs to reach for you to hear each frequency varies and will be plotted on the graph.
Is it significant to track both frequency and volume?
Now that you know how to read your audiogram, let’s take a look at what those results may mean for you in real life. Here are some sounds that would be harder to hear if you have the very prevalent form of high frequency hearing loss:
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- Higher pitched voices like women and children tend to have
While somebody who has high-frequency hearing loss has more difficulty with high-frequency sounds, some frequencies may seem easier to hear than others.
Inside of your inner ear there are tiny hair-like nerve cells that move along with sounds. 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 pick up that frequency are damaged, then you totally lose your ability to hear that frequency even at higher volumes.
This kind of hearing loss can make some interactions with friends and family very frustrating. Your family members might think they need to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have trouble hearing certain frequencies. On top of that, those who have this kind of hearing impairment find background sound overshadows louder, higher-frequency sounds like your sister speaking to you in a restaurant.
Hearing solutions can be personalized by a hearing professional by using a hearing test
When we can understand which frequencies you can’t hear well or at all, we can fine tune a hearing aid to meet each ear’s unique hearing profile. In modern digital hearing aids, if a frequency goes into the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid immediately knows if you can hear that frequency. It can then make that frequency louder so you can hear it. Or it can utilize its frequency compression feature to alter the frequency to one you can better hear. Additionally, they can improve your ability to process background noise.
Modern hearing aids are programmed to address your specific hearing requirements instead of just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother hearing experience.
If you think you might be dealing with hearing loss, contact us and we can help.