When was the last time you got your hearing tested? Most likely, you won’t even remember what year it was. Hearing plays an important role in a person’s daily life, therefore, even minor problems greatly affect our lives.
According to statistics, today every eighth American suffers from some degree of hearing loss, and the figure is constantly growing. If you do not want to get into a risk group, you should have audiometry done for prevention and identification of further difficulties. What is it and how does it work?
What is an audiogram?
Hearing care professionals use a variety of functional tests to assess the sensitivity of the auditory organ. All of them can be combined into one general term “Audiometry”. I’ll focus on one of the simplest and most effective auditory tests called Tonal Threshold Audiometry. The essence of the method is to determine the thresholds of hearing, the so-called sounds of the lowest intensity that a person can hear at different pitches.
An audiogram is a graph of the patient’s hearing threshold, i.e. an image of a person’s ability to hear sounds of different frequencies. It is a graph created in a coordinate system, in which the sound frequencies (Hz) are marked horizontally, and the hearing thresholds (dB) are marked vertically. All markings show the minimum sound intensity perceived by the ear at a certain frequency. At the end of the test, these points on the audiogram are connected and two lines are formed.
The process of hearing testing itself is completely safe for humans. First, the audiologist examines the ear for wax and removes it if necessary. If the doctor tests air conduction, she puts special headphones on the patient’s ears and gives sound signals of various frequencies. The strength of the sound also varies. Vibrating bone conduction headphone is used to test the degree of bone conduction. It is placed behind the patient’s ear.
The patient should press a button, or inform the doctor about the distinct perception of a particular sound. Unclear answers are indications of the problems. The computer records all signals, and displays them on a graph. The examination takes 10-25 minutes and does not cause any discomfort. The patient is given an audiogram upon completion of the test.
Dr. Stella Fulman, our leading hearing care professional, has a wealth of experience in audiometry. She notes that the most common reasons for conducting a study are:
selection of a hearing aid
preventative medical examination
checking the condition of the middle ear in the elderly
The ability to correctly understand an audiogram is an essential skill of an audiologist. Thanks to the graph analysis, the doctor can confirm a certain degree and type of hearing loss and prescribe the correct course of treatment.
How to read an audiogram?
The audiogram is a graph that is unique to each patient. The vertical axis indicates the sound in dB, and the horizontal axis the frequency in Hz. The resulting curve represents the volume of the sound and the range of frequencies that a person can perceive. During the diagnosis of disorders, the specialist records two graphs: AD – for the right ear, AS – for the left ear. According to international standards, AD curves are shown in red and AS curves in blue. In this case, the thresholds of the right ear are denoted by circles “O”, the left – by crosses “X”.
The results obtained in the process of research should be analyzed and conclusions should be drawn on their basis. For example, if the patient has problems, the audiogram allows you to set a degree of hearing loss:
In a healthy person, the audiogram shows two almost straight lines without a pronounced bone-air gap between them, the points along which these curves are plotted do not exceed 25 dB.
Mild hearing loss
The curves of the mild hearing loss audiogram are in the range of 26-40 dB. The person usually hears speech well and has problems with quiet speech or when communicating in a noisy environment. Mild hearing loss in childhood leads to the fact that children do not receive 25-40% of speech information, poorly distinguish consonants, get tired quickly, and are often distracted.
How many children have some form of hearing loss? According to the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC), about 15% of children 6 to 19 years old have this problem. Hearing loss in only one ear has a huge impact on school performance!
Moderate hearing loss
The curves range from 41 to 55dB (moderate) or 56 to 70dB (moderately-severe). What are the symptoms of the problem? Speech can be heard from a distance of no more than 2-4 (1-2) meters, whispering – from 1-2 meters (with moderately severe it is not audible). In everyday life, a person with such a hearing impairment often asks to repeat the phrase. Children with a decrease of 55 dB and below lose 100% of speech information. They use visual information (lip reading) to understand speech and have limited vocabulary.
Severe hearing loss
The tonal threshold is 71-90 dB. A person hears only loud sounds. It makes it difficult to communicate without hearing aids.
Profound hearing loss
In this case, the curves of the audiogram fall below 91 dB. At this level of hearing loss, there are big problems, since the person practically does not hear the sounds of the outside world. Communication is only possible using a special device (for example, a cochlear implant) or visual assistance (lip reading, sign language).
The audiogram shows a lot of information. However, the patient doesn’t need to read the graph professionally. The audiologist knows everything you need to know, he’ll explain the results of audiometry even to a layperson. Better, contact the experts at Audiology Island if you have any questions about the hearing test and audiogram!
A hearing test is the right decision to start treatment!
The sooner the treatment starts, the better the results you’ll get. Take our free online hearing test if for some reason you cannot get to the clinic. The whole procedure will not take long. You can choose a suitable place yourself because the testing takes place online. Its results will show the presence/absence of hearing problems. Don’t be discouraged if you have problems, Audiology Island will help you.
Our audiologists have vast experience in hearing aids. We’ll find out the cause and extent of the problem by analyzing the audiogram. Results of the threshold tone audiometry are key to choosing the right type and model of hearing aids and their effective fitting. You’ll keep the audiogram. This will allow in the future, if necessary, to remotely program your devices, bypassing the trip to the clinic. You’ll save time and money!
Remember, hearing is an important sense, without which life becomes unbearable. Do you want to enjoy life? Protect your hearing, or contact Audiology Island in time. We’ll help you!
About Dr Stella Fulman
Dr. Stella Fulman, AU.D., CCC-A received her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Audiology from Brooklyn College in 2004 and her Doctorate of Audiology from Salus University in 2008. [ Learn More ]