Everything You Need to Know About Audiograms
Your ears are home to one of the most delicate senses you have. While you might not notice it, your hearing has the ability to pick up on extremely subtle vibrations in the air, allowing you to understand and interact with the world around you.
However, much like your sight, your ability to hear can deteriorate over time. Many people begin wearing glasses as they grow older, while others begin using hearing aids to compensate for the effects of ageing. But while plenty of people go in for frequent vision tests, many others neglect their ears and struggle to understand the results of their hearing tests.
The first step to taking better care of your ears is learning about how audiograms work, and how they can help you in the long and short-term.
What is An Audiogram?
If you’ve ever had a hearing test, you’re probably familiar with the process. You are fitted with a pair of earphones, and your ability to hear through both ears is tested. Then, your individual ears are tested, to check for one-sided hearing loss. This is done by playing various sounds and different frequencies and volumes.
From there, your results are mapped on a graph to show your range of hearing. This graph, called an audiogram, provides a visual representation of your hearing ability.
When and Why Should We Get Them?
The typical time-range between hearing tests can span between 5-7 years. You might need more frequent hearing tests if you work in loud conditions or regularly attend concerts without hearing protection.
It’s important to remember that you cannot always notice hearing loss, especially when it’s subtle. Your brain is extremely adept at filling in the blanks, so you might not even notice that you’re missing certain areas of your hearing. However, that doesn’t diminish the harm of untreated hearing loss. Your brain is working overtime to compensate, which can lead to mental fatigue and loss of focus.
The only way to truly gauge your hearing is to get a professional hearing test, so make sure to get them every few years. If it’s been over a decade since your last test, you’re long-due for a checkup. You might be surprised at what you find.
Reading an Audiogram
Before you can learn to read your audiogram, there’s a bit of vocabulary and information you need to know.
• Decibels are units of volume when measuring sound. Low-decibel sounds are quiet, where high-decibel sounds are large. Conversation is usually around 60dB, where a gunshot is 140dB.
• Sounds over 85dB are harmful to your hearing over extended periods of time, and the comfortable threshold for sound is 120dB.
• Hertz is used to measure the frequency (or pitch) of any given sound. Ranges of 20Hz to 8000Hz are usually measured in hearing tests, since that is the range of human speech.
• A hearing threshold is the quietest sound you can hear at a certain frequency. These are measured during hearing tests.
• Each ear has its own audiogram, since results can differ in each ear.
Audiograms are graphs, and are read as such. The vertical axis represents volume in decibels, while the horizontal axis represents frequency in Hertz. Different frequencies are played at different volumes, and your hearing is measured according to which sounds you are able to hear.
You do not need to know how to read your audiogram flawlessly. Your hearing care provider is fully capable of interpreting your results, and they should be happy to explain them to you using the graph as a visual aid.
Using the audiogram, they can determine if your hearing is damaged. If you do have hearing loss, this can help them determine whether it is mild, moderate, severe, or profound. From there, you can begin discussing treatment.
Where To Get Audiograms
Before you can get a hearing test, you have to know who to talk to. If you don’t already have a hearing care provider, your GP might be able to recommend one to you. You can also use the Signia Store Locator to find a certified hearing care provider near you.
Once you have a hearing care provider, you can schedule a hearing test. If you’re in-between hearing tests and want to see if your hearing has changed, or just want some insight into how they work, the Signia Hearing Test is available online for free.
Your hearing is an important part of your daily life. If you think that your hearing has been damaged by events in your life, there’s no harm in getting a test done. If you wait until the problem is undeniable, you might be causing more problems.
Early detection of hearing loss can help you avoid further damage to your hearing, and prevent issues associated with hearing loss. Untreated hearing loss can lead to mental exhaustion, depression, and strained relationships with friends, coworkers, and loved ones.
If you find yourself avoiding events and conversations due to hearing issues, suffer from tinnitus, or regularly experience other signs of hearing loss, a professional hearing test can help you identify the issue. The sooner you get your hearing loss dealt with, the sooner you can move forward with your life and begin enjoying sound and dialogue again.