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

Determining hearing loss is more complex than it might at first seem. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can probably hear some things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. You might confuse certain letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters perfectly fine at whatever volume. When you learn how to read your hearing test it becomes more obvious why your hearing is “inconsistent”. That’s because there’s more to hearing than just cranking up the volume.

How do I read the results of my audiogram?

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 wonderful if it looked as basic as a scale from one to ten, but unfortunately, that’s not the situation.

Many people find the graph format challenging at first. But if you understand what you’re looking at, you too can interpret the results of your audiogram.

Reading volume on a hearing test

Along the left side of the graph is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to about 120 (thunder). This number will define 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 indicates mild hearing loss. If hearing begins at 45-65 dB then you’re dealing with moderate hearing loss. Hearing loss is severe if your hearing begins at 66-85 dB. 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.

The frequency section of your hearing test

You hear other things besides volume also. You hear sound at varied 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 typically listed along the lower section of the graph.

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

So, for illustration, if you’re dealing with 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 an elevated, but not yelling, voice). The graph will plot the volumes that the different frequencies will have to reach before you can hear them.

Is it important to measure both frequency and volume?

So in real life, what might the outcome of this test mean for you? High-frequency hearing loss, which is a quite common form of loss would make it harder to hear or comprehend:

  • “F”, “H”, “S”
  • Birds
  • Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
  • Music
  • Beeps, dings, and timers
  • Whispers, even if hearing volume is good

While a person with high-frequency hearing loss has more difficulty with high-frequency sounds, some frequencies might seem easier to hear than others.

Inside of the inner ear tiny stereocilia (hair-like cells) vibrate in response to sound waves. You lose the ability to hear in any frequencies which the corresponding hair cells that pick up those frequencies have become damaged and died. You will entirely lose your ability to hear any frequencies that have lost all of the related hair cells.

Interacting with other people can become very aggravating if you’re dealing with this kind of hearing loss. Your family members might think they need to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have trouble hearing certain frequencies. In addition to that, those with this kind of hearing loss find background noise overpowers louder, higher-frequency sounds like your sister talking to you in a restaurant.

We can utilize the hearing test to personalize hearing solutions

We will be able to custom tune a hearing aid for your specific hearing needs once we’re able to understand which frequencies you’re having trouble hearing. In modern digital hearing aids, if a frequency enters the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid automatically knows whether you’re able to hear that frequency. It can then make that frequency louder so you can hear it. Or it can alter the frequency by using frequency compression to a different frequency that you can hear. They also have features that can make processing background sound simpler.

This creates a smoother more natural hearing experience for the hearing aid wearer because rather than simply making everything louder, it’s meeting your personal hearing needs.

If you think you might be dealing with hearing loss, contact us and 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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