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

Measuring hearing loss is more complex than it may seem at first. You can probably hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. The majority of letters may sound clear at high or low volumes but others, like “s” and “b” may get lost. When you learn how to interpret your hearing test it becomes clearer why your hearing seems “inconsistent”. That’s because there’s more to hearing than just 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 ascertain how you hear. It won’t look as basic as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it did!)

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

Deciphering the volume portion of your 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 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 can’t hear any sound until it is around 30 dB then you have mild hearing loss which is a loss of sound between 26 and 45 dB. You have moderate hearing loss if your hearing begins at 45-65 dB. If you start hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it indicates you have 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 have profound hearing loss.

Reading frequency on a audiogram

Volume’s not the only thing you hear. You hear sound at varied frequencies, commonly called pitches in music. Frequencies help you differentiate between types of sounds, and this includes the letters of the alphabet.

On the bottom of the chart, you’ll typically find 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)

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

So if you’re dealing with hearing loss in the higher wavelengths, you may need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as loud as 60 dB (the volume of someone talking at an elevated volume). The graph will plot the volumes that the various frequencies will have to reach before you can hear them.

Is it essential to track both frequency and volume?

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

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

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

Inside of your inner ear you have very small hair-like nerve cells that shake along with sounds. You lose the ability to hear in whatever frequencies which the corresponding hair cells that detect those frequencies have become damaged and died. If all of the cells that pick up that frequency are damaged, then you totally lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.

This type of hearing loss can make some communications with loved ones extremely aggravating. You might have trouble only hearing certain frequencies, but your family members might think they have to yell to be heard at all. And higher frequency sounds, such as your sister talking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for individuals with this kind of hearing loss.

Hearing solutions can be personalized by a hearing professional by using a hearing test

When we can recognize which frequencies you cannot hear well or at all, we can program a hearing aid to meet each ear’s unique hearing profile. Contemporary hearing aids have the ability to recognize precisely what frequencies go into the microphone. The hearing aid can be fine tuned to boost whatever frequency you’re having difficulty hearing. Or it can adjust the frequency by using frequency compression to another frequency you can hear. Additionally, they can improve your ability to process background noise.

Modern hearing aids are fine tuned to target your specific hearing needs instead of just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother listening experience.

Schedule an appointment for a hearing exam 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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