Measuring hearing loss is more technical than it might at first seem. If you’re dealing with hearing loss, you can probably hear certain things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. You might confuse certain letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters perfectly fine at any volume. It will become more apparent 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 just cranking up the volume.
When I get my audiogram, how do I decipher it?
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 basic as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be fantastic if it did!)
Rather, it’s printed on a graph, which is why many people find it challenging. But if you know what you’re looking at, you too can understand the results of your audiogram.
Examining volume on an audiogram
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.
If you can’t hear any sound until it is about 30 dB then you have mild hearing loss which is a loss of volume between 26 and 45 dB. If hearing starts at 45-65 dB then you have moderate hearing loss. If you start hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it indicates you have severe hearing loss. Profound hearing loss means that you can’t hear until the volume reaches 90 dB or more, which is louder than a lawnmower.
Reading frequency on a hearing test
Volume’s not the only thing you hear. You hear sound at different frequencies, commonly called pitches in music. Frequencies allow you to distinguish between types of sounds, and this includes 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 along the bottom of the chart.
This test will allow us to figure out how well you can hear within a span of wavelengths.
So, for illustration, if you have high-frequency hearing loss, in order for you to hear a high-frequency sound it might have to be at least 60 dB (which is about the volume of an elevated, but not yelling, voice). The graph will plot the volumes that the various frequencies will have to reach before you can hear them.
Is it essential to measure both frequency and volume?
So in real life, what might the outcome of this test mean for you? Here are some sounds that would be more difficult to hear if you have the very prevalent form of high frequency hearing loss:
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
While somebody with high-frequency hearing loss has more difficulty with high-frequency sounds, certain frequencies might seem easier to hear than others.
Inside your inner ear you have very small hair-like nerve cells that shake 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 died. If all of the cells that detect 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 really aggravating. Your family members may think they have to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have difficulty hearing certain frequencies. In addition to that, those with this type of hearing loss find background noise overpowers louder, higher-frequency sounds such as your sister talking to you in a restaurant.
We can use the hearing test to personalize hearing solutions
When we are able to understand which frequencies you cannot hear well or at all, we can program a hearing aid to meet each ear’s distinct hearing profile. Contemporary hearing aids have the ability to know exactly what frequencies go into the microphone. The hearing aid can be fine tuned to boost whatever frequency you’re having difficulty hearing. Or it can use its frequency compression feature to adjust the frequency to one you can better hear. They also have features that can make processing background sound easier.
Modern hearing aids are programmed to target your specific hearing requirements rather than just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother hearing experience.
If you think you might be dealing with hearing loss, call us and we can help.