Determining hearing loss is more technical than it may seem at first. You can probably hear certain things clearly at lower volumes 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 obvious why you notice inconsistencies with your hearing when you figure out how to interpret your hearing test. Because merely turning up the volume isn’t enough.
When I get my audiogram, how do I decipher it?
An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals use to calculate how you hear. It would be terrific if it looked as simple as a scale from one to ten, but sadly, that’s not the situation.
Many people find the graph format complicated at first. But if you are aware of what you’re looking at, you too can understand the results of your audiogram.
Decoding the volume portion of your hearing test
The volume in Decibels is outlined on the left side of the chart (from 0 dB to about 120 dB). This number will identify how loud a sound has to be for you to be capable of hearing it. Higher numbers signify that in order for you to hear it, you will require louder sound.
A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB signifies mild hearing loss. You’re dealing with moderate hearing loss if your hearing starts at 45-65 dB. If you start hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it means you have severe hearing loss. Profound hearing loss means that you’re unable to hear until the volume reaches 90 dB or more, which is louder than a lawnmower.
The frequency portion of your audiogram
You hear other things besides volume also. You can also hear a range of frequencies or pitches of sound. Frequencies help you differentiate 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 typically listed along the bottom of the chart.
This test will allow us to ascertain how well you can hear within a range of wavelengths.
So, for illustration, if you’re dealing with 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 must reach for you to hear each frequency varies and will be plotted on the graph.
Why tracking both volume and frequency is so significant
Now that you understand how to read your audiogram, let’s have a look at what those results may mean for you in the real world. Here are some sounds that would be tougher to hear if you have the very prevalent form of high frequency hearing loss:
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Higher pitched voices like women and children tend to have
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- Beeps, dings, and timers
While a person with high-frequency hearing loss has more trouble with high-frequency sounds, some frequencies may seem easier to hear than others.
Within the inner ear tiny stereocilia (hair-like cells) move in response to sound waves. If the cells that detect a specific 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 entirely lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.
This kind of hearing loss can make some communications with friends and family extremely frustrating. Your family members might think they have to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have difficulty hearing certain frequencies. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister speaking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for individuals with this type of hearing loss.
Hearing solutions can be individualized by a hearing professional by using a hearing test
We will be able to custom program a hearing aid for your particular hearing needs once we’re able to understand which frequencies you’re not able to hear. In modern digital hearing aids, if a frequency goes into the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid immediately knows whether you can hear that frequency. It can then raise the volume on that frequency so you’re able to hear it. Or it can change the frequency by using frequency compression to a different frequency that you can hear. In addition, they can enhance your ability to process background noise.
Modern hearing aids are programmed to address your specific hearing needs instead of just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother hearing experience.
Make an appointment for a hearing exam right away if you think you might be suffering from hearing loss. We can help.