Determining hearing loss is more complex than it might seem at first. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can probably hear some things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. You might confuse particular letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters perfectly fine at any volume. It will become more obvious why you notice inconsistencies with your hearing when you learn how to read your hearing test. Because simply turning up the volume isn’t enough.
How do I interpret the results of my audiogram?
An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals use 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 written on a graph, and that’s why many people find it challenging. But if you are aware of what you’re looking at, you too can interpret the results of your audiogram.
Looking at volume on an audiogram
On the left side of the graph is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to about 120 (thunder). The higher the number, the louder the sound must be for you to hear it.
A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB points to mild hearing loss. If hearing begins at 45-65 dB then you have moderate hearing loss. If you start hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it means you’re dealing with severe hearing loss. If you can’t hear sound until it gets up to 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 distinguished by frequency or pitch.
Frequencies that a human ear can hear, from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are generally listed along the bottom of the chart.
We will test how well you hear frequencies in between and can then plot them on the chart.
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 significant to measure both frequency and volume?
Now that you understand how to read your audiogram, let’s have a look at what those results might mean for you in real life. Here are a few sounds that would be tougher to hear if you have the very prevalent form of high frequency hearing loss:
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
- “F”, “H”, “S”
While someone with high-frequency hearing loss has more trouble with high-frequency sounds, some frequencies might seem easier to hear than others.
Inside your inner ear there are tiny hair-like nerve cells that move along with sounds. If the cells that pick up a certain frequency become damaged and eventually die, you lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. If all of the cells that pick up that frequency are damaged, then you completely lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.
This type of hearing loss can make some interactions with friends and family extremely aggravating. You might have difficulty only hearing certain frequencies, but your family members might assume they need to yell to be heard at all. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister talking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for individuals who have this kind of hearing loss.
We can use the hearing test to personalize hearing solutions
When we are able to recognize which frequencies you don’t hear well or at all, we can program a hearing aid to meet each ear’s distinct hearing profile. 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. The hearing aid can be programmed to boost whatever frequency you’re having trouble hearing. Or it can use its frequency compression feature to adjust the frequency to one you can hear better. They also have functions that can make processing background sound easier.
Modern hearing aids are fine tuned to address your particular hearing needs rather than just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother listening experience.
Make an appointment for a hearing exam right away if you think you may be suffering from hearing loss. We can help.