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

It may seem, at first, like measuring hearing loss would be simple. If you’re dealing with hearing loss, you can probably 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 any volume. When you figure out how to interpret your hearing test it becomes more obvious why your hearing is “inconsistent”. Because simply turning up the volume isn’t enough.

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

An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals use to determine how you hear. It would be terrific 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 complicated at first. But if you understand what you’re looking at, you too can understand the results of your audiogram.

Decoding the volume portion of your hearing test

Along the left side of the chart is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to around 120 (thunder). The higher the number, the louder the sound must be for you to hear it.

If you can’t hear any sound until it reaches around 30 dB then you have mild hearing loss which is a loss of sound between 26 and 45 dB. You’re dealing with moderate hearing loss if your hearing starts at 45-65 dB. Hearing loss is severe if your hearing begins at 66-85 dB. 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.

Examining frequency on a audiogram

Volume’s not the only thing you hear. You can also hear a range of frequencies or pitches of sound. Frequencies allow you to distinguish between types of sounds, including the letters of the alphabet.

Frequencies that a human ear can hear, ranging from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are typically listed along the bottom of the graph.

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

So if you’re dealing with hearing loss in the higher frequencies, you might need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as loud as 60 dB (the volume of someone talking at an elevated volume). The volume that the sound must reach for you to hear specific frequencies varies and will be plotted on the graph.

Is it significant to track both frequency and volume?

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

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

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

Inside your inner ear there are tiny hair-like nerve cells that vibrate along 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 regardless of volume.

This type of hearing loss can make some interactions with loved ones really frustrating. You may have trouble only hearing specific frequencies, but your family members might think they need to yell in order for you to hear them at all. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister talking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for individuals with this kind of hearing loss.

Hearing solutions can be individualized by a hearing professional by utilizing a hearing test

We will be able to custom program a hearing aid for your particular hearing requirements once we’re able to understand which frequencies you’re not able to hear. Modern hearing aids have the ability to know exactly what frequencies go into the microphone. It can then make that frequency louder so you can hear it. Or it can utilize its frequency compression feature to change the frequency to one you can better hear. In addition, they can improve your ability to process background noise.

This delivers a smoother more normal hearing experience for the hearing aid wearer because instead of 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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