Determining hearing loss is more complex than it may at first seem. You can most likely hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. You may confuse particular letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters perfectly fine at whatever volume. When you learn how to understand your hearing test it becomes clearer why your hearing is “inconsistent”. It’s because there’s more to hearing than just turning up the volume.
How do I understand the results of my audiogram?
Hearing professionals will be able to get a read on the state of your hearing by using this type of hearing test. It won’t look as simple as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it did!)
Instead, it’s printed on a graph, which is why many individuals find it challenging. But if you know what you’re looking at, you too can interpret the results of your audiogram.
Deciphering the volume portion of your hearing test
Along the left side of the graph is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to about 120 (thunder). This number will identify how loud a sound needs to be for you to be capable of hearing it. Higher numbers signify that in order for you to hear it, you will need louder sound.
If you’re unable to hear any sound until it is about 30 dB then you have mild hearing loss which is a loss of sound between 26 and 45 dB. You have 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’re dealing with profound hearing loss.
Examining frequency on a audiogram
Volume isn’t the only thing you hear. You hear sound at different 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 typically see 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)
This test will allow us to figure out how well you can hear within a span of wavelengths.
So if you’re dealing with hearing loss in the higher frequencies, you may need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as loud as 60 dB (the volume of someone talking at an elevated volume). The volume that the sound needs to reach for you to hear each frequency varies and will be plotted on the graph.
Is it significant to track both frequency and volume?
Now that you understand how to interpret your audiogram, let’s have a look at what those results may mean for you in the real world. High-frequency hearing loss, which is a very common form of loss would make it harder to hear or understand:
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
While somebody with high-frequency hearing loss has more difficulty with high-frequency sounds, some frequencies may seem easier to hear than others.
Inside your inner ear there are very small hair-like nerve cells that vibrate with sounds. If the cells that pick up 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 totally lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.
This type of hearing loss can make some communications with friends and family very aggravating. Your family members could think they need to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have difficulty hearing certain wavelengths. And higher frequency sounds, such as your sister talking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for people with this type of hearing loss.
Hearing solutions can be individualized by a hearing professional by using a hearing test
When we are able to understand which frequencies you can’t hear well or at all, we can fine tune a hearing aid to meet each ear’s unique hearing profile. Modern hearing aids have the ability to recognize precisely what frequencies enter the microphone. The hearing aid can be programmed to boost whatever frequency you’re having trouble hearing. Or it can adjust the frequency by using frequency compression to a different frequency you can hear. In addition, they can enhance your ability to process background noise.
This delivers a smoother more natural hearing experience for the hearing aid user because instead of just making everything louder, it’s meeting your unique hearing needs.
Make an appointment for a hearing exam right away if you think you may be suffering from hearing loss. We can help.