Determining hearing loss is more technical than it might seem at first. You can most likely hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. You might confuse certain letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters perfectly fine at whatever 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.
When I get my audiogram, how do I interpret it?
Hearing professionals will be able to determine the condition of your hearing by utilizing this type of hearing test. It would be wonderful if it looked as basic as a scale from one to ten, but regrettably, that isn’t the situation.
Rather, it’s printed on a graph, which is why many find it challenging. But you too can interpret a hearing test if you know what you’re looking at.
Reading volume on a hearing test
The volume in Decibels is listed on the left side of the chart (from 0 dB to around 120 dB). This number will identify how loud a sound needs to be for you to be able to hear it. Higher numbers signify that in order for you to hear it, you will need louder sound.
A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB indicates mild hearing loss. You’re dealing with moderate hearing loss if your hearing starts at 45-65 dB. If you start hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it means you’re dealing with severe hearing loss. 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 hearing test
You hear other things besides volume too. You can also hear different frequencies or pitches of sound. Frequencies allow you to distinguish between types of sounds, including the letters of the alphabet.
Along the bottom of the chart, you’ll generally find frequencies that a human ear can detect, 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 hear frequencies in between and can then plot them on the chart.
So, for example, 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 about the volume of a raised, but not yelling, voice). The volume that the sound must reach for you to hear specific frequencies varies and will be plotted on the chart.
Is it important to measure both frequency and volume?
So in the real world, what might the results of this test mean for you? High-frequency hearing loss, which is a very common type of loss would make it harder to hear or comprehend:
- Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
- Beeps, dings, and timers
- Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
- “F”, “H”, “S”
While someone with high-frequency hearing loss has more difficulty with high-frequency sounds, certain frequencies may seem easier to hear than others.
Inside of your inner ear you have very small 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. You will entirely 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 friends and family extremely aggravating. You might have trouble only hearing certain frequencies, but your family members might think they need to yell to be heard at all. On top of that, those with this type of hearing loss find background sound overpowers louder, higher-frequency sounds such as your sister speaking to you in a restaurant.
We can utilize the hearing test to individualize hearing solutions
When we are able to recognize which frequencies you don’t hear well or at all, we can fine tune a hearing aid to meet each ear’s unique hearing profile. In modern digital hearing aids, if a frequency enters the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid immediately knows if you’re able to hear that frequency. It can then make that frequency louder so you can hear it. Or it can make use of its frequency compression feature to alter the frequency to one you can hear better. Additionally, they can improve your ability to process background noise.
This delivers a smoother more normal 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 today if you think you might be suffering from hearing loss. We can help.