Measuring hearing loss is more technical than it might at first seem. You can most likely 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 any volume. When you learn how to understand your hearing test it becomes more obvious why your hearing is “inconsistent”. That’s because there’s more to hearing than just turning 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 determine how you hear. It won’t look as straightforward as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be fantastic if it did!)
Rather, it’s written on a graph, which is why many individuals find it challenging. But you too can interpret a hearing test if you’re aware of what you’re looking at.
Deciphering the volume portion of your hearing test
The volume in Decibels is listed on the left side of the chart (from 0 dB to about 120 dB). The higher the number, the louder the sound needs to be for you to hear it.
A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB indicates mild hearing loss. You have moderate hearing loss if your hearing begins at 45-65 dB. If you start hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it indicates you have severe hearing loss. Profound hearing loss means that you’re unable to hear until the volume gets up to 90 dB or more, which is louder than a lawnmower.
Examining frequency on a audiogram
Volume isn’t the only thing you hear. You hear sound at varied frequencies, commonly called pitches in music. Different types of sounds, including letters of the alphabet, are distinguished by frequency or pitch.
Along the lower section of the graph, you’ll usually find frequencies that a human ear can hear, going from a low frequency of 125 (lower 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 somebody talking at a raised volume). The volume that the sound must reach for you to hear specific frequencies varies and will be plotted on the graph.
Is it significant to measure both frequency and volume?
Now that you know how to interpret your hearing test, let’s have a look at what those results might mean for you in the real world. High-frequency hearing loss, which is a quite common form of loss would make it harder to hear or understand:
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
Some particular frequencies may be harder for someone who has high frequency hearing loss to hear, even within the higher frequency range.
Inside of the inner ear tiny stereocilia (hair-like cells) vibrate in response to sound waves. If the cells that detect a certain 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 totally lose your ability to hear that frequency even at higher volumes.
Communicating with other people can become extremely aggravating if you’re suffering from this type of hearing loss. Your family members may think they have to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have trouble hearing particular frequencies. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister talking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for people with this kind of hearing loss.
Hearing solutions can be personalized by a hearing professional by using a hearing test
When we are able to recognize which frequencies you cannot hear well or at all, we can program a hearing aid to meet each ear’s unique hearing profile. In contemporary digital hearing aids, if a frequency goes into the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid automatically knows whether you can hear that frequency. It can then make that frequency louder so you can hear it. Or it can use its frequency compression feature to change the frequency to one you can hear better. They also have functions that can make processing background sound easier.
Modern hearing aids are fine tuned to target your particular hearing needs instead of just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother listening experience.
If you think you might be experiencing hearing loss, contact us and we can help.