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

It may seem, initially, like measuring hearing loss would be easy. You can probably hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. The majority of letters may sound clear at any volume but others, like “s” and “b” could get lost. It will become more obvious why you notice inconsistencies with your hearing when you figure out how to interpret your hearing test. It’s because there’s more to hearing than just cranking up the volume.

How do I read the results of my audiogram?

An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals use to ascertain how you hear. It would be terrific if it looked as basic as a scale from one to ten, but sadly, that’s not the case.

Rather, it’s printed on a graph, which is why many individuals find it perplexing. But if you are aware of what you’re looking at, you too can interpret the results of your audiogram.

Looking at volume on an audiogram

On the left side of the chart is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to about 120 (thunder). This number will specify how loud a sound has 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 signifies mild hearing loss. If hearing starts 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 have severe hearing loss. If you can’t 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.

Reading frequency on a hearing test

You hear other things besides volume too. You hear sound at different frequencies, commonly called pitches in music. Different types of sounds, including letters of the alphabet, are distinguished by frequency or pitch.

On the bottom of the chart, you’ll usually see frequencies that a human ear can hear, going from a low frequency of 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to a high frequency of 8000 (higher than a cricket)

This test will allow us to figure out how well you can hear within a span of wavelengths.

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 around the volume of an elevated, but not yelling, voice). The graph will plot the volumes that the different frequencies will need to reach before you can hear them.

Why measuring both volume and frequency is so important

Now that you know how to interpret your hearing test, let’s have a look at what those results might mean for you in real life. Here are some sounds that would be more difficult to hear if you have the very prevalent form of high frequency hearing loss:

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

Certain particular frequencies might be harder for someone who has high frequency hearing loss to hear, even in the higher frequency range.

Inside your inner ear there are very small hair-like nerve cells that move along with sounds. If the cells that detect a certain frequency become damaged and ultimately die, you will lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. If all of the cells that detect that frequency are damaged, then you entirely lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.

This kind of hearing loss can make some interactions with loved ones very aggravating. Your family members could think they need to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have trouble hearing particular wavelengths. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister talking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for people with this kind of hearing loss.

Hearing solutions can be individualized 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 distinct hearing profile. Modern hearing aids have the ability to recognize precisely what frequencies enter 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 a different frequency that you can hear. Additionally, they can enhance your ability to process background noise.

Modern hearing aids are programmed to target your specific hearing requirements rather than just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother listening experience.

Make an appointment for a hearing test right away if you think you may be dealing with 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.