READING YOUR AUDIOGRAM
Hearing is one of the most important senses that we have. It can help us avoid dangerous situations and know what is going on around us, but more importantly, it helps us understand and communicate with the world around us. However, recent estimations state that over 10 percent of the world’s population has some form of hearing loss. That is more than 700 million people. Luckily, most forms of hearing loss are treatable and testing for many forms of hearing loss can be done under an hour. The results of the test will be shown on an audiogram.
What is an Audiogram?
Audiologists use a graph called an audiogram to display a person’s level of hearing. It is used to determine what type of hearing loss a person may have and what degree of severity it is. It specifically measures the softest sound an individual can hear at a wide range of frequencies.
What Information is on an Audiogram?
For those who have never seen one, an audiogram can be a little confusing to understand. While it is always best to have an audiologist help explain the details of the results, there are three main parts a patient should know:
The x-axis of the graph which indicates the frequency of sounds a person can hear. It is denoted in Hertz (Hz). A normal hearing audiogram will start around 125 Hz and end at around 8000 Hz. The scale used increases exponentially. For example, the frequency denotations go from 125 Hz to 250 Hz, then 500 Hz, 1000 Hz, 2000 Hz, 4000 Hz and finally 8000 Hz.
To put this into context, 125 HZ is considered to be in the middle of the base range. Think of a low bass guitar. 8000 HZ is more like a bird screeching or a high whistle. Average human voices hit between 120 Hz to 130 Hz. However, some can go up to 1000 Hz.
The second part is the y-axis of the graph. This specifies the loudness or decibels (dB) a person is able to hear. A normal hearing audiogram will have a set range from 10 dB to 120 dB. It increases by set increments of 10 dB. 0dB is the threshold of hearing, but most audio tests will begin at 10 dB which is the sound of humans breathing. On the other hand, 120 dB can be compared to a loud bar or a shotgun blast. Average human voices are around 60 dB.
Personal Audiogram Results
The last important part of an audiogram is the personal results. It will be shown as two line graphs, one for each ear, each of which will fall somewhere between the Hertz and Decibel markers indicated above.
Understanding Your Audiogram
As mentioned above, an audiogram will have a line graph for both the right and left ear. The right ear is marked with an “O” and the left ear is marked with an “X”. Generally speaking, it is best to have these two lines as close to each other as possible. This means that both ears have similar ranges of hearing. However, there is no need to worry if they are not directly on top of each other.
It is also a good sign if the two lines are both higher up on the audiogram. This indicates a normal level of hearing. The lines might not be straight across because some tones are easier to hear than others. That being said, anywhere from 0 dB to 10 dB across all the frequencies is considered a normal hearing audiogram.
If the hearing test markers are between 10 dB to 40 dB there is mild hearing loss. This means that it is difficult to understand someone who is speaking softly or sounds coming from a distance. It can also be tedious for a person to locate a specific sound if there is background noise.
If the hearing test markers are between 40 dB to 70 dB there is moderate hearing loss. This is where things can become detrimental. People that have moderate hearing loss will have difficulty hearing a typical conversation with a person that is right in front of them. Sounds that are farther off might not even register to them unless it is significantly loud enough.
If the hearing test markers are between 70 dB to 90 dB there is severe hearing loss. This greatly limits a person. They may only hear the sounds of emergency sirens or other relatable sounds.
Anything lower and the person might be considered to be completely deaf.
What Happens After Testing?
If a person has a normal audiogram there isn’t much more that happens. If there are signs of hearing loss an audiologist will most likely do further testing. The majority of preliminary tests are done with headphones or speakers. This is called air conduction testing. This test has sound enter through the ear canal, travel past the middle ear, and end up in the inner ear.
If this method shows hearing loss, bone conduction testing may be used. This test uses a bone vibrator to send sound directly into the inner ear by bypassing the ear canal and middle ear where the eardrum is. It is placed behind the ear. If hearing levels improve with this test, a person is considered to have conductive hearing loss. If there is no improvement, a person has sensorineural hearing loss.
There are a handful of other tests audiologists might conduct.
Depending on the severity of a person’s hearing loss, hearing aids or other supplementary devices may be prescribed.
Why Hearing Tests Are Important
Any form of hearing loss can greatly affect how a person goes through daily life. Tests should start during childhood when the person will be growing, learning, and developing skills they will use for the rest of their lives. Having this period of time in one’s life be hindered by not being able to hear what is going on around them can hold them back. Tests should occur every few years to make sure nothing is abnormal.
Luckily, if something is wrong with an individual’s hearing, the results of an audiogram can help audiologists treat them. The test can determine a slew of different issues that can adversely affect a person’s ability to hear. Some of which include birth defects, chronic ear infections, a ruptured eardrum, Meniere’s disease, and otosclerosis.
However, without testing, it might take some time before a person understands how much hearing they have lost. Waiting makes it more difficult for doctors to help.
Choose Eldorado Audiology
While the information above is a helpful overview of what to expect after getting an audiogram and the benefits of going to get one, it is important that one’s results be read from a professional. Audiologists train to understand the fine details that can be found in an audiogram. They know how to do further testing to make sure the exact reason behind a person’s hearing loss is known. They will also be there to answer any questions a patient may have.
Think about setting up an appointment with an audiologist today.