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Hearing Loss Chart - How To Read and Interpret It


Hearing Loss Chart

Almost everything in life is ‘on a spectrum.’ Not black or white, but somewhere in the grey area. Hearing loss is no different. Some people are completely deaf while others may have hearing loss in just one ear or ask you to repeat yourself multiple times. In this article, we explore the six degrees of hearing loss with the help of a Blue Angels Hearing – Hearing Loss Chart.

How to Read a Hearing Loss Chart - Blue Angels Hearing

Interpreting What an Audiologist Tells Us After a Test

If we visit an audiologist for a professional consultation, the first thing they will do is perform a diagnostic hearing test using an audiometer. We hear a series of tones becoming quieter, in other words at lower decibel levels, one ear at a time.

Our job is to ping back each time we hear one of them.  The result will tell the audiologist the quantitative extent of our hearing loss. However, they are most likely to interpret this by explaining we have mild, moderate, or severe hearing loss in one or both of our ears. But what does this mean?

Unpacking These Decibels in Simple English

Classification

 

Sounds Missed

Slight

 

Few difficulties

Mild

 

Clock ticking

Moderate

 

Vacuum cleaner

Moderately severe

 

Dog barking

Severe

 

Baby crying

Profound

 

Airplanes

 

Data Source Widex.Com

The Standard Format of Hearing Loss Charts

A standard audiogram chart is a spreadsheet that shows the threshold of hearing loss of a subject, for standard frequencies at fixed interval volumes. The Y Axis ‘height’ represents the intensity of the volume in decibels. While the X Axis ‘width’ represents the standard frequencies used.

Spreadsheet of Hearing Loss Chart by Frequency

Image Source Audiology 6

The audiologist notes the decibel levels on a hearing loss chart where their client stopped hearing a frequency. The distances of these points from the normal hearing line is then the client’s hearing profile.

Each person’s hearing is different in some way or another, as are our fingerprints. An audiologist normally plots both ear results on a single chart using different symbols. There are slight losses at high frequencies in the diagram below, but this should not be a concern.

Here is an image of a tonaudiogramm, used to analyze hearing and decibels

Image Source Welleschik

Characteristic Audiogram Patterns for Different Root Causes

  1. Large variations below the norm at higher frequencies may indicate age-related deterioration, or exposure to high volumes suddenly, or over time.
  2. Significant losses at all frequencies around 40 dB may be the result of otosclerosis replacing dense bones with spongy layers in the inner ear.
  3. Ménière's disease, on the other hand causes severe loss at lower frequencies, as well as vertigo, tinnitus, and a feeling of fullness in the inner ear.

Some Limitations of Audiogram Hearing Loss Charts

Audiograms measure ‘hidden hearing loss’ of which the subject is subjectively unaware. They therefore do not reflect the situations a person with hearing loss finds themselves in - real life situations. They are primarily diagnostic tools for indicating medical conditions such as otosclerosis and ménière's disease.

Two Examples of Audiograms in Action

  1. Moderate Hearing Loss with thresholds ranging from 40-60 dB HL

What moderate hearing loss looks like on a Hearing Loss Chart. The db HL ranges from 40 to 60 depending on the frequency

Image Source Boys Town National Research Hospital

  1. Severe Hearing Loss with thresholds ranging from 60-80 dB HL

This is what a severe hearing score looks like on a Hearing Loss Chart. The db HL ranges from 60 to 80 as the frequency increases

Image Source Boys Town National Research Hospital

Hearing Loss Charts for Hard-of-Hearing Seniors

Audiograms for age-related hearing loss caused by exposure to loud sounds, often display the ‘notched’ pattern audiologists regularly derive for older clients. Almost all of them were exposed to sudden, extremely loud sounds at some point in their career, or an abnormally noisy background.

Image Source Chandramaas

How This Hearing Loss Affects Conversations

The hearing loss in the previous chart is the 30 dB to 60 dB bands. These straddle the mild to moderate range on a hearing loss chart. They are also at the heart of the zone where most normal conversation occurs.

If you are in your middle fifties or older, then the following chart may be your ‘eureka moment,’ where you and science meet. This is also the zone where seniors find hearing aids most helpful.

Image Source Thomas Haslwanter

We hope you found this article about hearing loss charts helpful, and that it guides you in the right direction for solving your hearing difficulties. Going slightly deaf is not something to be ashamed of.

We wrote this post to de-mystify audiogram hearing loss charts. That’s because we believe it’s important to remove hearing aids from their pedestal and bring them down to the level where they are specialized wearable devices that do not have to be expensive.

We’ll close with a quote from National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDC) that lays it down the line.

“A hearing aid is a small electronic device that you wear in or behind your ear. It makes some sounds louder so that a person with hearing loss can listen, communicate, and participate more fully in daily activities.

“A hearing aid can help people hear more in both quiet and noisy situations. However, only about one out of five people who would benefit from a hearing aid, actually uses one.”

More Reading

Free Online Hearing Test for Seniors

What’s a Safe Volume for My Headphones?

NIDC Report on Hearing Aids