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How Do I Understand My Hearing Loss From My Audiogram?

You’ve made an appointment with an ENT or Audiologist. They’ve just given you a hearing test. What do you do now? We’re going to walk you through how to read and understand your hearing loss from your audiogram.

Always be sure to request your audiogram (hearing test results) as it will act as a prescription for you and allow you to survey your options and make the most educated hearing aid choice for you. You have a legal right to this document as it is your medical information. An audiogram will look something like this:

audiogram - hearing - loss - aids - audicus

Key:

Blue = Left Ear

Red = Right Ear

X = Left Ear

O = Right Ear

 

What Do Those Lines Mean on My Audiogram?

An audiogram is a graph that shows the softest sounds a person can hear at different pitches or frequencies.

Asymmetrical hearing loss is when each ear has a different level or type of hearing loss. Each ear is represented by a different line on the graph. If your graphs or lines look different, you have asymmetrical hearing loss. This is more unusual and signifies that the causes of the loss in each ear are different and therefore must be treated differently. When asymmetrical hearing loss exists, it is best to have your ears checked out by an ENT doctor to ensure that you are a candidate for hearing aids and that no surgery or treatment is needed. The sample graph above reflects an asymmetrical hearing loss as each ear has different levels of hearing loss.

Symmetrical Hearing loss is most natural with age related hearing loss. It implies that hearing loss is the same in both ears. If both lines or graphs look the same, you have symmetrical hearing loss. The graph below shows an audiogram reflecting symmetrical hearing loss.

audiogram - hearing - aid - loss - audicus

Do I Have High or Low Frequency Hearing Loss?

Frequency is the unit by which how high or low a sound is measured. Frequency is measured horizontally on the top of your hearing test. As the frequencies go from left to right they range from lower to higher.

Example: If you read the audiogram from left to right, the final X is all the way at 8,000 hertz – that means this person would have high frequency loss. They can only hear above 80 decibels at 8,000 hertz. High Frequency loss makes it difficult to hear higher pitched sounds such as women and children. If the X’s and O’s on your hearing test remain predominantly on the left side, you have low frequency loss making lower pitched sounds more difficult to hear and understand.

What Level of Hearing Loss Do I Have?

Decibels are the unit by which sound is measured. On your audiogram, the decibel loss is measured vertically on the left side. As the number gets bigger, so does your hearing loss. Example: Reading the above audiogram from left to right, the final O (right ear) hits about 68 db or so.  This means that anything below 68 db. (Whispered conversations, leaves rustling, birds chirping) will not be heard. The last X (left ear) has slightly more severe hearing loss, hitting at 75 db. Again, this means that any sound below 75 db will be unable to be heard.

 

The graph above shows what kinds of sounds occur at which decibels. This will give you insight into what kinds of sounds you may be missing at each level of hearing loss. Someone with profound loss, for example, (loss up to around 90 – 110 decibels) would only be able to hear the loud sounds of trucks and motorcycles, while missing moderate sounds like a piano, vacuum cleaner, and even softer sounds like whispering and birds chirping.

What is a Word Recognition Score?

The last part of your audiogram that you will need to take a look at is the Word Recognition Score or WRS. This is located in a little box to the side or below your audiogram graph. It looks something like this:

word - recognition - hearing - loss - audicus

The word recognition score is a measurement of your speech comprehension abilities. Your audiologist will test your brain’s ability to understand language by having you repeat sentences and words back to them. It’s important to understand that the parts of your brain that process speech and hearing are separate. This means that fitting you with hearing aids won’t necessarily improve your speech if it falls below a certain level. Every audiologist has their threshold below which they will not recommend someone to be a hearing aid candidate—for many it is 50%.

Bear in mind too, that the longer you go without hearing aids, the more your language muscle atrophies, lowering your score ever more. After a certain point, this muscle ceases to work on a functioning level and the damage cannot be restored. All the more reason to get fitted with your Audicus hearing aid as quickly as possible!

By: Eli Pauley

Sources: World Health Organization, American Academy of Audiology, Hearing Direct, Audiology Online

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