We often wonder why people put off getting their hearing tested. Early diagnosis is paramount to receiving the best treatment and determines the success of your hearing healthcare. Maybe it is due to not understanding the dangers of long-term untreated hearing loss? Putting off seeking professional help and living without amplification, your perception of sound can change. This is never a good thing.
Perhaps it’s because they feel there is a stigma surrounding hearing loss and see it only through negative eyes? No one wants to be seen as old and some people see hearing loss as a sign of this. What they don’t understand is how discrete and modern the hearing solutions are today. Early diagnosis is vital to ensure hearing aids are correctly programmed to your own unique hearing loss – if hearing aids are what’s needed.
Or it might be that they are anxious and don’t know the true process of a hearing test and audiogram. What does it look like? How is it created? How is it used? Or they might be unsure how to interpret audiogram results and how to understand audiogram hearing loss levels.
To put it simply, an audiogram is a hearing test graph that shows the results of your test with an audiologist. It displays one part of your complete assessment and is the most useful tool to piece together your hearing capabilities. Your audiologist will explain, simply, what the results show concerning your volume, pitch and speech sounds.
Your audiologist will be reading an audiogram to gain a clearer insight as to the level of any hearing loss and potentially the most probable cause. If any other medical issue is apparent, then your audiologist will refer you to an ENT specialist.
How does an audiogram work? Well, while you are being tested sounds are sent to you at various pitches and volumes using a computer-driven audiometer. This allows an audiologist to adjusts the pitch of those sounds manually and at what intensity.
You will respond to these sounds by pressing a button to indicate when you hear them. The quietest level of each sound you hear is recorded at each pitch – then plotted on the audiogram. An audiologist will use a red circle for your right ear and a blue one for your left. These recordings, using the circles, are comparisons to normal hearing levels of 25dB overall pitches of sound. The further down the results are on the graph, the louder the sound has had to be adjusted. You can see a hearing test example below.
Air conduction hearing: The sounds intensity that is heard through the outer, middle and inner ear.
Bone conduction hearing: Using a vibrating pad behind the pinna, which records the sound intensity heard solely in the inner ear.
Both the air and bone conduction results of the pattern and position for both your ears are read by the audiologist. They determine the level, nature and cause of the results shown and highlights problematic ranges.
The audiogram’s vertical axis shows the volume or intensity of the sound given – measured in decibels (dBHL). It begins at 10dBHL and finishes at 120dBHL. The horizontal axis displays where the low pitch sound starts and escalates in pitch as you go through your test.
When the audiologist reads the results for both your ears and finds a level of hearing loss, it generally is found in both ears. However, sometimes there can be asymmetry and varying levels. Your air and bone conduction tests are compared, and you will be shown if this is the case and if your loss is sensory-neural, conductive or both.
Decibels are what we measure sound and are not permanent values like volts and meters. This scale is logarithmic that doubles the sounds pressure level, increasing by 6dB. The dB scales vary according to the environment the sound travels through, using a calibrated decibel hearing level scale.
Frequency is the number of vibrations per second in each sound wave and measured in Hertz (Hz). The higher the level, the higher the frequency. The vibrations used are between 20 and 20,000 Hz and reflect the sounds heard by us every day. Nature sounds, such as bird song, would be a high tone and a bass guitar would be a low one.
If you have a high-frequency loss it generally means that you have problems hearing high frequency sounds only. Consonants like s, f, sh are hard to make sense of. Whereas low-frequency loss – being less common – effects the ability to hear vowels in conversation.
As routine, hearing tests for newborn babies are carried out in the hospital to quickly identify any problems at the start of their development. This is called a newborn hearing screening. Following this, children's parents are generally asked from 9 months to 2 and a half years of age if they have any concerns regarding their child's hearing. Then a hearing test is done around the time children start school - either in school or at the hospital.
Hearing problems in childhood are not common, but hearing test for kids of all ages can be done through the NHS or private. It is important to always check children's hearing if there are any concerns, as early testing makes sure that any issues are diagnosed and managed as early as possible.
Wherever you go for your hearing test it should be free, but some hearing aid providers do charge - especially if you are wanting to test your hearing at home. We recommend you ask your audiologist before you book your appointment to avoided any disappointment. At Hearing Aid UK, all our hearing tests, aftercare, digital hearing aid fitting and programming are included in the price of the hearing aid(s).
The NHS provide free hearing tests and usually, your GP will refer you to the NHS to book an initial appointment with an audiologist. Because it normally takes up to six weeks to get an appointment, patients often get tested privately instead.
Find out more about the differences between NHS and private hearing healthcare here
Wondering what the procedure is for taking a hearing test during COVID? Read all about how we are operating during the pandemic - in our clinics or ar your home here
For any advice about hearing healthcare or to book a hearing test with an audiologist near you, please contact one of our experts free on 0800 567 7621
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