Measuring hearing loss is more complex than it might at first seem. You can most likely 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” may get lost. When you learn how to interpret your hearing test it becomes more obvious why your hearing is “inconsistent”. That’s because there’s more to hearing than simply turning up the volume.
When I get my audiogram, how do I decipher it?
An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals employ to calculate how you hear. It won’t look as straightforward as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it did!)
Rather, it’s printed on a graph, and that’s why many people find it confusing. But if you know what you’re looking at, you too can interpret the results of your audiogram.
Interpreting the volume section of your audiogram
The volume in Decibels is indexed on the left side of the chart (from 0 dB to about 120 dB). The higher the number, the louder the sound must be for you to hear it.
If you can’t hear any sound until it is around 30 dB then you have mild hearing loss which is a loss of volume 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 starts at 66-85 dB. 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 hearing test
You hear other things besides volume too. You can also hear a range of frequencies or pitches of sound. Frequencies help you differentiate between types of sounds, including the letters of the alphabet.
Along the lower section of the chart, you’ll usually find frequencies that a human ear can hear, starting from a low frequency of 125 (deeper 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 diagram them on the graph.
So, for illustration, if you have 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 an elevated, but not yelling, voice). The volume that the sound must reach for you to hear specific frequencies varies and will be plotted on the graph.
Why tracking both volume and frequency is so important
Now that you understand how to interpret your hearing test, let’s look at what those results might mean for you in real life. Here are a few sounds that would be harder to hear if you have the very prevalent form of high frequency hearing loss:
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
- Beeps, dings, and timers
Some particular frequencies may be more difficult for someone who has high frequency hearing loss to hear, even in the higher frequency range.
Inside your inner ear there are very small hair-like nerve cells that move along with sounds. You lose the ability to hear in any frequencies which the corresponding hair cells that pick up those frequencies have become damaged and died. 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 others can become extremely aggravating if you’re suffering from this type of hearing loss. Your family members could think they have to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have difficulty hearing particular frequencies. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister speaking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for people who have this kind of hearing loss.
Hearing solutions can be personalized by a hearing professional by using a hearing test
We will be able to custom program a hearing aid for your specific hearing requirements once we’re able to understand which frequencies you’re not able to hear. In contemporary digital hearing aids, if a frequency enters the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid immediately knows if you’re able to hear that frequency. The hearing aid can be programmed to boost whatever frequency you’re having difficulty hearing. Or it can change the frequency through frequency compression to a different frequency you can hear. Additionally, they can improve your ability to process background noise.
This produces a smoother more normal hearing experience for the hearing aid wearer because rather than just making everything louder, it’s meeting your unique hearing needs.
If you think you may be experiencing hearing loss, call us and we can help.