Determining hearing loss is more complex than it may at first seem. If you’re dealing with hearing loss, you can probably hear certain things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. Most letters may sound clear at high or low volumes but others, like “s” and “b” could get lost. It will become more apparent why you have inconsistencies with your hearing when you figure out how to interpret your hearing test. That’s because there’s more to hearing than just cranking up the volume.
How do I understand the results of my audiogram?
Hearing professionals will be able to get a read on the condition of your hearing by utilizing this type of hearing test. It won’t look as straightforward 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 understand what you’re looking at, you too can understand the results of your audiogram.
Deciphering the volume portion of your audiogram
On the left side of the graph is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to around 120 (thunder). This number will specify how loud a sound needs to be for you to be capable of hearing it. Higher numbers mean that in order for you to hear it, you will need louder sound.
If you can’t hear any sound until it reaches about 30 dB then you’re dealing with mild hearing loss which is a loss of sound between 26 and 45 dB. If hearing begins at 45-65 dB then you’re dealing with moderate hearing loss. Hearing loss is severe if your hearing starts at 66-85 dB. If you are unable to hear sound until it reaches 90 dB or more (louder than the volume of a running lawnmower), it means that you’re dealing with profound hearing loss.
The frequency section of your hearing test
Volume isn’t the only thing you hear. You can also hear a range of frequencies or pitches of sound. Different types of sounds, including letters of the alphabet, are differentiated by frequency or pitch.
Along the lower section of the graph, you’ll generally find frequencies that a human ear can hear, starting 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’re able to hear frequencies in between and can then plot them on the graph.
So if you’re dealing with hearing loss in the higher frequencies, you may need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as high as 60 dB (the volume of somebody talking at an elevated volume). The volume that the sound must reach for you to hear specific frequencies varies and will be plotted on the graph.
Is it important to measure both frequency and volume?
Now that you understand how to interpret your audiogram, let’s look at what those results may mean for you in real life. Here are some sounds that would be tougher to hear if you have the very common form of high frequency hearing loss:
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- Higher pitched voices like women and children tend to have
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Beeps, dings, and timers
While someone with high-frequency hearing loss has more trouble with high-frequency sounds, certain frequencies may seem easier to hear than others.
Inside your inner ear there are tiny hair-like nerve cells that shake with sounds. You lose the ability to hear in whatever frequencies which the corresponding hair cells that detect those frequencies have become damaged and 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 really frustrating if you’re suffering from this kind of hearing loss. Your family members might think they need to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have trouble hearing particular wavelengths. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister talking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for individuals who have this type of hearing loss.
We can use the hearing test to individualize hearing solutions
When we can recognize which frequencies you can’t 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 enters the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid immediately knows whether you’re able to hear that frequency. The hearing aid can be programmed to boost whatever frequency you’re having trouble hearing. Or it can make use of its frequency compression feature to change the frequency to one you can hear better. They also have functions that can make processing background sound simpler.
This produces a smoother more natural hearing experience for the hearing aid user because instead of just making everything louder, it’s meeting your personal hearing needs.
Make an appointment for a hearing exam right away if you think you might be suffering from hearing loss. We can help.