Determining hearing loss is more technical 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 just 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 merely turning up the volume isn’t enough.
When I get my audiogram, how do I decipher it?
An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals utilize to determine how you hear. It won’t look as straightforward as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it did!)
Many individuals find the graph format complicated at first. But if you know what you’re looking at, you too can understand the results of your audiogram.
Deciphering the volume section of your audiogram
The volume in Decibels is outlined on the left side of the graph (from 0 dB to around 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 need louder sound.
If you’re unable to hear any sound until it reaches about 30 dB then you’re dealing with mild hearing loss which is a loss of volume between 26 and 45 dB. If hearing begins at 45-65 dB then you’re dealing with moderate hearing loss. Hearing loss is severe if your hearing starts 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 portion of your hearing test
You hear other things besides volume also. You hear sound at varied frequencies, commonly known as pitches in music. Frequencies help you distinguish between types of sounds, including the letters of the alphabet.
On the lower section of the graph, you’ll typically see frequencies that a human ear can detect, going from a low frequency of 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to a high frequency of 8000 (higher than a cricket)
We will test how well you’re able to hear frequencies in between and can then diagram them on the chart.
So if you’re dealing with hearing loss in the higher frequencies, you might need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as loud as 60 dB (the volume of someone talking at an elevated volume). The chart will plot the volumes that the various frequencies will need to reach before you’re able to hear them.
Is it important to track both frequency and volume?
So in the real world, what could the results of this test mean for you? High-frequency hearing loss, which is a very common form of loss would make it more difficult to hear or understand:
- “F”, “H”, “S”
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
Certain specific frequencies might be more difficult for someone who has high frequency hearing loss to hear, even within the higher frequency range.
Inside your inner ear you have tiny hair-like nerve cells that shake with sounds. If the cells that pick up a specific frequency become damaged and ultimately 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 totally lose your ability to hear that frequency even at higher volumes.
This kind of hearing loss can make some interactions with loved ones really aggravating. You might have difficulty only hearing specific frequencies, but your family members may assume they have to yell to be heard at all. And higher frequency sounds, such as your sister speaking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for people who have this type of hearing loss.
Hearing solutions can be individualized 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 modern digital hearing aids, if a frequency enters 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’re able to hear it. Or it can use its frequency compression feature to adjust the frequency to one you can hear better. Additionally, they can enhance your ability to process background noise.
This produces a smoother more normal hearing experience for the hearing aid wearer because rather than simply making everything louder, it’s meeting your personal hearing needs.
If you believe you may be experiencing hearing loss, call us and we can help.