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Hearing aids and an otoscope placed on an audiologists desk with an audiogram hearing test chart

It might seem, at first, like measuring hearing loss would be easy. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can most likely hear certain things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. You may confuse particular letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters just fine at whatever volume. When you figure out how to read your hearing test it becomes clearer why your hearing is “inconsistent”. It’s because there’s more to hearing than just turning up the volume.

When I get my audiogram, how do I decipher it?

An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals utilize to calculate how you hear. It won’t look as simple as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it did!)

Many people find the graph format challenging at first. But you too can understand a hearing test if you know what you’re looking at.

Interpreting the volume portion of your audiogram

The volume in Decibels is detailed on the left side of the chart (from 0 dB to around 120 dB). This number will specify how loud a sound has to be for you to be capable of hearing it. Higher numbers signify that in order for you to hear it, you will require louder sound.

A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB signifies mild hearing loss. If hearing begins at 45-65 dB then you’re dealing with 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 are unable to 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 different frequencies or pitches of sound. Frequencies help you differentiate between types of sounds, and this includes the letters of the alphabet.

On the bottom of the graph, you’ll typically find frequencies that a human ear can hear, starting from a low frequency of 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to a high frequency of 8000 (higher than a cricket)

This test will let us determine how well you can hear within a span of wavelengths.

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 various frequencies will have to reach before you can hear them.

Why measuring both volume and frequency is so significant

Now that you understand how to interpret your audiogram, let’s look at what those results may mean for you in real life. High-frequency hearing loss, which is a very common type of loss would make it harder to hear or understand:

  • Beeps, dings, and timers
  • Higher pitched voices like women and children tend to have
  • Birds
  • “F”, “H”, “S”
  • Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
  • Music

Some particular frequencies may be more challenging for someone who has high frequency hearing loss to hear, even within the higher frequency range.

Inside of your inner ear there are tiny hair-like nerve cells that move with sounds. If the cells that pick up a certain 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.

Communicating with others can become really frustrating if you’re dealing with this type of hearing loss. You may have trouble only hearing some frequencies, but your family members may assume they need to yell in order for you to hear them at all. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister speaking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for people who have this type of hearing loss.

We can use the hearing test to personalize hearing solutions

We will be able to custom program a hearing aid for your specific hearing needs once we’re able to understand which frequencies you’re not able to hear. In modern digital hearing aids, if a frequency goes into the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid instantly knows if you’re able to hear that frequency. It can then raise the volume on that frequency so you can hear it. Or it can make use of its frequency compression feature to alter the frequency to one you can better hear. They also have features that can make processing background sound easier.

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 test right away if you think you may be suffering from hearing loss. We can help.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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