Measuring hearing loss is more technical than it may at first seem. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can probably hear certain things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. You may confuse certain letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters just fine at whatever volume. It will become more apparent why you have inconsistencies with your hearing when you learn how to read your hearing test. Because simply turning up the volume isn’t enough.
When I get my audiogram, how do I interpret it?
Hearing professionals will be able to get a read on the state of your hearing by using this type of hearing test. It would be terrific if it looked as simple as a scale from one to ten, but unfortunately, that isn’t the situation.
Rather, it’s printed on a graph, which is why many find it challenging. But if you are aware of what you’re looking at, you too can understand the results of your audiogram.
Interpreting the volume section of your audiogram
The volume in Decibels is detailed on the left side of the graph (from 0 dB to about 120 dB). This number will determine how loud a sound has to be for you to be capable of hearing it. Higher numbers mean that in order for you to hear it, you will require louder sound.
If you’re unable to 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. If hearing starts at 45-65 dB then you have moderate hearing loss. If you begin hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it means you’re dealing with severe hearing loss. Profound hearing loss means that you can’t hear until the volume gets up to 90 dB or more, which is louder than a lawnmower.
Examining frequency on a hearing test
Volume’s not 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.
Frequencies that a human ear can hear, from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are normally listed on the lower section of the graph.
We will test how well you hear frequencies in between and can then plot them on the chart.
So, for instance, if you have high-frequency hearing loss, in order for you to hear a high-frequency sound it might have to be at least 60 dB (which is around the volume of a raised, but not yelling, voice). The chart will plot the volumes that the different frequencies will have to reach before you can hear them.
Why measuring both volume and frequency is so essential
So in the real world, what could the results of this test mean for you? High-frequency hearing loss, which is a very common type of loss would make it more difficult to hear or understand:
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
- Beeps, dings, and timers
While someone who has high-frequency hearing loss has more difficulty with high-frequency sounds, certain frequencies might seem easier to hear than others.
Within the inner ear tiny stereocilia (hair-like cells) shake in response to sound waves. If the cells that detect a specific frequency become damaged and ultimately die, you lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. You will completely lose your ability to hear any frequencies that have lost all of the related hair cells.
This kind of hearing loss can make some interactions with loved ones extremely frustrating. Your family members may think they need to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have trouble hearing particular frequencies. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister talking 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 using a hearing test
When we are able to understand which frequencies you cannot hear well or at all, we can fine tune a hearing aid to meet each ear’s distinct hearing profile. Modern hearing aids have the ability to recognize precisely what frequencies go into the microphone. The hearing aid can be programmed to boost whatever frequency you’re having trouble hearing. Or it can alter the frequency by using frequency compression to a different frequency you can hear. They also have functions that can make processing background sound easier.
Modern hearing aids are fine tuned to target your particular hearing requirements 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 might be suffering from hearing loss. We can help.