Measuring hearing loss is more complex than it may seem at first. You can most likely hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. Most letters may sound clear at any volume but others, such as “s” and “b” may get lost. It will become more obvious why you have inconsistencies with your hearing when you figure out how to interpret your hearing test. It’s because there’s more to hearing than simply cranking up the volume.
How do I interpret the results of my audiogram?
An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals employ to determine how you hear. It won’t look as straightforward as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be fantastic if it did!)
Rather, it’s printed on a graph, which is why many people find it perplexing. But you too can understand a hearing test if you know what you’re looking at.
Looking at volume on an audiogram
The volume in Decibels is outlined 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.
A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB indicates mild hearing loss. If hearing starts at 45-65 dB then you have moderate hearing loss. Hearing loss is severe if your hearing begins at 66-85 dB. 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 have 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. Frequencies allow you to differentiate between types of sounds, and this includes the letters of the alphabet.
On the lower section of the chart, you’ll typically see 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 check how well you’re able to hear frequencies in between and can then diagram them on the chart.
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 around the volume of a raised, but not yelling, voice). The volume that the sound needs to reach for you to hear each frequency varies and will be plotted on the graph.
Why measuring both volume and frequency is so essential
So in real life, what could the outcome of this test mean for you? Here are a few sounds that would be harder to hear if you have the very common form of high frequency hearing loss:
- Higher pitched voices like women and children tend to have
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- “F”, “H”, “S”
Certain specific frequencies might be more difficult for a person with high frequency hearing loss to hear, even within the higher frequency range.
Inside of your inner ear there are very small hair-like nerve cells that move along with sounds. If the cells that pick up a certain frequency become damaged and ultimately die, you will 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 type of hearing loss can make some communications with friends and family really aggravating. 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. In addition, those with this type of hearing loss find background noise overpowers louder, higher-frequency sounds like your sister talking to you in a restaurant.
Hearing solutions can be personalized by a hearing professional by utilizing a hearing test
When we can recognize 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. In contemporary 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 can hear it. Or it can alter the frequency by using frequency compression to another frequency you can hear. They also have functions that can make processing background sound simpler.
Modern hearing aids are fine tuned to target your specific hearing requirements rather than just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother hearing experience.
Schedule an appointment for a hearing exam today if you think you might be dealing with hearing loss. We can help.