Determining 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. Most letters might sound clear at any volume but others, such as “s” and “b” may get lost. It will become more obvious why you notice inconsistencies with your hearing when you learn how to read your hearing test. That’s because there’s more to hearing than simply cranking up the volume.
When I get my audiogram, how do I interpret it?
Hearing professionals will be able to determine the condition of your hearing by making use of this type of hearing test. It won’t look as simple as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be great if it did!)
Rather, it’s written on a graph, and that’s why many people find it confusing. But if you understand what you’re looking at, you too can interpret the results of your audiogram.
Decoding the volume portion of your audiogram
The volume in Decibels is indexed on the left side of the graph (from 0 dB to around 120 dB). This number will specify how loud a sound needs to be for you to be able to hear it. Higher numbers mean that in order for you to hear it, you will require louder sound.
If you can’t hear any sound until it reaches about 30 dB then you have mild hearing loss which is a loss of sound between 26 and 45 dB. You’re dealing with moderate hearing loss if your hearing begins at 45-65 dB. Hearing loss is severe if your hearing begins 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 have profound hearing loss.
The frequency portion of your hearing test
You hear other things besides volume also. You hear sound at varied frequencies, commonly called pitches in music. Different types of sounds, including letters of the alphabet, are differentiated by frequency or pitch.
Frequencies which a human ear can hear, from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are generally listed along the lower section of the chart.
This test will let us ascertain how well you can hear within a span of wavelengths.
So if you have hearing loss in the higher wavelengths, you may need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as high as 60 dB (the volume of someone talking at a raised volume). The volume that the sound needs to reach for you to hear specific frequencies varies and will be plotted on the chart.
Why tracking both volume and frequency is so significant
Now that you know how to interpret your audiogram, let’s take a look at what those results might mean for you in the real world. Here are a few sounds that would be more difficult to hear if you have the very common form of high frequency hearing loss:
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Higher pitched voices like women and children tend to have
Some specific frequencies may be more challenging for a person with high frequency hearing loss to hear, even in the higher frequency range.
Inside of your inner ear you have tiny hair-like nerve cells that vibrate 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 entirely lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.
Communicating with others can become really aggravating if you’re dealing with this type of hearing loss. You might have difficulty only hearing certain frequencies, but your family members might think they need to yell in order for you to hear them at all. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister speaking 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 utilizing a hearing test
We will be able to custom tune a hearing aid for your specific hearing needs once we’re able to understand which frequencies you’re not able to hear. In modern digital hearing aids, if a frequency enters the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid automatically knows whether you can hear that frequency. It can then raise the volume on that frequency so you can hear it. Or it can utilize its frequency compression feature to alter the frequency to one you can hear better. Additionally, they can improve your ability to process background noise.
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.
Schedule an appointment for a hearing exam today if you think you may be dealing with hearing loss. We can help.