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How to Read Your Audiogram at Your Hearing Test


You have just finished your hearing test. The hearing specialist is now entering the room and presents you with a chart, like the one above, except that it has all of these icons, colors, and lines. This is intended to present to you the exact, mathematically precise attributes of your hearing loss, but to you it might as well be written in Greek.

The audiogram adds confusion and complication at a time when you’re supposed to be concentrating on how to strengthen your hearing. But don’t let it fool you — just because the audiogram looks perplexing doesn’t mean that it’s difficult to grasp.

After looking through this article, and with a little vocabulary and a handful of basic concepts, you’ll be reading audiograms like a professional, so that you can concentrate on what really counts: healthier hearing.

Some advice: as you read the article, reference the above blank audiogram. This will make it easier to comprehend, and we’ll cover all of those cryptic marks the hearing specialist adds later on.

Understanding Sound Frequencies and Decibels

The audiogram is really just a chart that records sound volume on the vertical axis and sound frequency on the horizontal axis. (are you having flashbacks to high school geometry class yet?) Yes, there’s more to it, but at a basic level it’s just a chart graphing two variables, as follows:

The vertical axis documents sound intensity or volume, measured in decibels (dB). As you move up the axis, the sound volume decreases. So the top line, at 0 decibels, is a very soft, faint sound. As you move down the line, the decibel levels increase, standing for gradually louder sounds until you get to 100 dB.

The horizontal axis records sound frequency, measured in Hertz (Hz). Starting at the top left of the graph, you will see a low frequency of 125 or 250 Hz. As you continue along the horizontal axis to the right, the frequency will progressively increase until it reaches 8,000 Hz. Vowel sounds of speech are in general low frequency sounds, while consonant sounds of speech are high frequency sounds.

And so, if you were to start off at the top left corner of the graph and sketch a diagonal line to the bottom right corner, you would be increasing the frequency of sound (progressing from vowel sounds to consonant sounds) while raising the level of sound (moving from softer to louder volume).

Evaluating Hearing and Marking Up the Audiogram

So, what’s with all the marks you usually see on this basic graph?

Easy. Begin at the top left corner of the graph, at the lowest frequency (125 Hz). Your hearing consultant will present you with a sound at this frequency through headsets, beginning with the lowest volume decibel level. If you can hear it at the lowest level (0 decibels), a mark is made at the intersection of 125 Hz and 0 decibels. If you are not able to hear the 125 Hz sound at 0 decibels, the sound will be presented once again at the next loudest decibel level (10 decibels). If you can perceive it at 10 decibels, a mark is created. If not, continue on to 15 decibels, and so on.

This exact technique is repeated for each frequency as the hearing specialist progresses along the horizontal frequency line. A mark is made at the lowest perceivable decibel level you can perceive for each individual sound frequency.

Regarding the other symbols? If you notice two lines, one is for the left ear (the blue line) and one is for the right ear (the red line: red is for right). An X is ordinarily applied to mark the points for the left ear; an O is used for the right ear. You may observe some additional symbols, but these are less significant for your basic understanding.

What Normal Hearing Looks Like

So what is thought to be normal hearing, and what would that look like on the audiogram?

People with regular hearing should be able to perceive each sound frequency level (125 to 8000 Hz) at 0-25 decibels. What might this look like on the audiogram?

Take the empty graph, find 25 decibels on the vertical axis, and sketch a horizontal line all the way across. Any mark made below this line may signify hearing loss. If you can hear all frequencies beneath this line (25 decibels or higher), then you likely have normal hearing.

If, on the other hand, you cannot perceive the sound of a particular frequency at 0-25 dB, you very likely have some form of hearing loss. The smallest decibel level at which you can perceive sound at that frequency defines the grade of your hearing loss.

For instance, take the 1,000 Hertz frequency. If you can perceive this frequency at 0-25 decibels, you have normal hearing for this frequency. If the smallest decibel level at which you can perceive this frequency is 40 decibels, for example, then you have moderate hearing loss at this frequency.

As an overview, here are the decibel levels identified with normal hearing along with the levels linked with mild, moderate, severe, and profound hearing loss:

Normal hearing: 0-25 dB

Mild hearing loss: 20-40 dB

Moderate hearing loss: 40-70 dB

Severe hearing loss: 70-90 dB

Profound hearing loss: 90+ dB

What Hearing Loss Looks Like

So what would an audiogram with indications of hearing loss look like? Given that many cases of hearing loss are in the higher frequencies (referred to as — you guessed it — high-frequency hearing loss), the audiogram would have a descending sloping line from the top left corner of the chart slanting downward horizontally to the right.

This indicates that at the higher-frequencies, it requires a increasingly louder decibel level for you to perceive the sound. Furthermore, seeing that higher-frequency sounds are connected with the consonant sounds of speech, high-frequency hearing loss impairs your ability to comprehend and pay attention to conversations.

There are other, less typical patterns of hearing loss that can appear on the audiogram, but that’s probably too much information for this article.

Test Your New Knowledge

You now know the basics of how to interpret an audiogram. So go ahead, schedule that hearing test and surprise your hearing specialist with your newfound abilities. And just imagine the look on their face when you tell them all about your high frequency hearing loss before they even say a word.

How to Persuade Someone to Get a Hearing Test

We don’t need to tell you the signs and symptoms of hearing loss; you already know them all too well. You have a different type of challenge: persuading someone you care for to get their hearing checked and treated.

But how are you supposed to get through to someone who denies there is even an issue, or that merely shrugs it off as “just part of getting old”?

It turns out that it’s not as simplistic as just recommending to them that they need their hearing examined. They will not understand the need, and you won’t get very far with threats, ultimatums, or other coercive tactics.

Even though it may seem like an impossible scenario, there are other, more subtle approaches you can use. In fact, you can tap into the massive body of social scientific research that shows which techniques of persuasion have been determined to be the most consistently effective.

This means, you can use tested, researched, and proven persuasive strategies that have been established to actually work. It’s worth a chance, right? And scanning the techniques might enable you to think of additional ideas.

With that said, the following are 6 scientifically tested methods of persuasion and how you might use them to persuade a friend or family member to get their hearing tested:

1. Reciprocity

What it is:

The concept of reciprocity is very simple: if someone does a favor for you, you’re powerfully motivated to return the favor for them.

How to use it:

Timing is everything. You plan on requesting your loved one to get their hearing checked at some point anyway, so why don’t you make the request right after you’ve done something special for them?

2. Commitment and Consistency

What it is:

We all have a strong psychological desire to think and behave consistently.

How to use it:

The trick is to begin with smaller commitments ahead of making the final request. If you begin by ordering your loved one to get a hearing test, you probably won’t see much success.

Rather, ease into the topic by casually sharing an article on hearing loss and how widespread it is. Without mentioning their own personal hearing loss, get them to admit that hearing loss is a more prominent problem than they had believed.

As soon as they concede to a few basic facts, it may be easier to talk about their own personal hearing loss, and they may be more likely to disclose that they have a problem.

3. Social Proof

What it is:

We have a habit to think in terms of “safety in numbers.” We have a tendency to conform to the crowd, and we assume that if lots of other people are doing something, it must be safe or beneficial.

How to use it:

There are at a minimum two ways to use this method. One way is to share articles on the many advantages of using hearing aids and how hearing aids improve the quality of life for millions of individuals in the U.S. and around the globe.

The second way to use the technique is to arrange a hearing test for yourself. Explain to your loved one that you want to confirm the well being of your own hearing, but that you would feel better if they went with you and had their own exam.

4. Liking

What it is:

You are more inclined to be persuaded by people you personally like than by either a stranger or by someone you dislike.

How to use it:

Enlist the assistance of people you know your loved one likes or respects. Attempt to find that one particular person whom your loved one always seems to respond to, and have that person talk about and highly recommend a hearing test.

5. Authority

What it is:

We are inclined to listen to and respect the suggestions of those we perceive as authority figures.

How to use it:

Share articles on how celebrities, athletes, and other respected figures wear and benefit from hearing aids. You can also share articles from legitimate sources that summarize the importance of getting your hearing tested. For example, the World Health Organization recently published an article titled “1.1 billion people at risk of hearing loss.”

6. Scarcity

What it is:

Scarcity generates a sense of urgency when what we want is perceived as limited or in short supply. Scarcity creates the perception that, if we don’t act right away, we may lose something once and for all.

How to use it:

The latest research has connected hearing loss to a number of dangerous conditions, including Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, memory impairment, and accelerated cognitive decline. Hearing loss also gets worse over time, so the sooner it’s dealt with, the better.

To apply scarcity, share articles, such as our earlier blog post titled 8 reasons hearing loss is more dangerous than you think, with your loved one. Show them that every day spent with untreated hearing loss exacerbates the hearing loss, degrades health, and increases the risk of developing more dangerous conditions.

If all else fails, just give it to them straight. Tell your loved ones how their hearing loss affects you, combined with how it’s affecting your relationship. When you make it about your needs and feelings rather than theirs, the response is usually better.

Have you had success persuading someone to have their hearing tested? Let us know your methods in a comment.


The six principles of persuasion were developed by Dr. Robert Cialdini, and can be found in his book titled “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.”

5 Reasons Why People Deny Hearing Loss

It takes the average person with hearing loss 5 to 7 years before seeking a professional diagnosis, in spite of the reality that the signs and symptoms of hearing loss are apparent to others. But are those with hearing loss simply too stubborn to get help? No, actually, and for a couple of different reasons.

Perhaps you know someone with hearing loss who either denies the problem or refuses to seek professional help, and while this is undoubtedly frustrating, it is very likely that the indications of hearing loss are much more apparent to you than they are to them.

Here are the reasons why:

1. Hearing loss is gradual

In the majority of cases, hearing loss comes about so slowly that the impacted individual simply doesn’t experience the change. While you would notice an immediate change from normal hearing to a 25 decibel hearing loss (defined as moderate hearing loss), you wouldn’t notice the smaller change of a 1-2 decibel loss.

So a gradual loss of 1-2 decibels over 10-20 years, while generating a 20-40 total decibel loss, is not going to be noticeable at any given moment in time for those afflicted. That’s why friends and family are almost always the first to notice hearing loss.

2. Hearing loss is often partial (high-frequency only)

The majority of hearing loss examples are categorized as high-frequency hearing loss, meaning that the impacted person can still hear low-frequency background sounds normally. While speech, which is a high-frequency sound, is strenuous for those with hearing loss to follow, other sounds can usually be heard normally. This is why it’s commonplace for those with hearing loss to say, “my hearing is fine, everyone else mumbles.”

3. Hearing loss is not addressed by the family doctor

People struggling with hearing loss can obtain a mistaken sense of well-being after their yearly physical. It’s common to hear people state “if I had hearing loss, my doctor would have told me.”

This is of course not true because only 14% of physicians routinely screen for hearing loss during the annual checkup. Not to mention that the foremost symptom for most cases of hearing loss — difficulty comprehending speech in the presence of background noise — will not present itself in a quiet office setting.

4. The burden of hearing loss can be shared or passed on to others

How do you treat hearing loss when there’s no cure? The solution is simple: amplify sounds. The problem is, while hearing aids are the most effective at amplifying sounds, they are not the only way to accomplish it — which individuals with hearing loss promptly identify.

Those with hearing loss regularly turn up the volume on everything, to the detriment of those around them. Television sets and radios are played excessively loud and people are made to either scream or repeat themselves. The individual with hearing loss can get by just fine with this strategy, but only by passing on the burden to friends, family members, and colleagues.

5. Hearing loss is painless and invisible

Hearing loss is mainly subjective: it cannot be diagnosed by visible assessment and it normally is not accompanied by any pain or discomfort. If individuals with hearing loss do not recognize a problem, mainly due to the reasons above, then they probably won’t take action.

The only way to correctly diagnose hearing loss is through audiometry, which will determine the specific decibel level hearing loss at numerous sound frequencies. This is the only way to objectively determine whether hearing loss is present, but the hard part is needless to say getting to that point.

How to approach those with hearing loss

Hopefully, this essay has manufactured some empathy. It is always frustrating when someone with hearing loss refuses to recognize the problem, but remember, they may legitimately not perceive the magnitude of the problem. Instead of demanding that they get their hearing tested, a more reliable strategy may be to educate them on the elements of hearing loss that make the condition essentially invisible.

What to Expect at Your Hearing Exam

If the unfamiliar triggers anxiety, then a trip to the hearing specialist is particularly nerve-racking. While the majority of us have experience with the family physician and the town dentist, the visit to the hearing specialist may be a first.

It certainly would be useful to have someone summarize the process up front, wouldn’t it? Well, keep reading, because as you’ll discover, the process of getting your hearing examined is ordinarily easy, comfortable, and pain-free — with aspects that can actually be fun.

So here’s how it will go:

After you arrive at the office, you will check in with an employee at the front desk who will hand you a few forms to fill out. Not long after filling in the forms, a hearing specialist will come with you into a room to start the hearing assessment, which is composed of four parts:

Part 1: Case History

case history

The hearing specialist starts the process by getting to know you, your health history, and your hearing loss symptoms. Getting ready for this step is critical, because this is where you get to express to the hearing specialist the specifics of your hearing loss, what you are looking for from treatment, and your unique hearing needs.

This part is all about you: what do you want to accomplish with better hearing? Do you wish to play a music instrument again? Do you wish to be more engaged in work meetings? Do you want to be more energetic at social gatherings? The more you can reveal to your hearing specialist the better.

Next comes the testing.

Part 2: Otoscopy


The first diagnostic test to be carried out is called an otoscopy. An otoscope is used to visually explore the ear canal and eardrum to establish if your hearing loss is correlated to infections, earwax buildup, or obstructions. If the explanation for your hearing loss is something as elementary as earwax buildup, you could possibly start hearing better within a few minutes simply from expert earwax removal.

Part 3: Tympanometry


The following test is called tympanometry, used to test the eardrum and middle ear. A device is inserted into the ear that will modify the air pressure, evaluating how your ear responds to numerous pressures.

To understand this test, you have to first recognize that hearing loss falls into one of two general classes:

  1. Sensorineural hearing loss — this is the most widespread hearing loss. It is also referred to as noise-induced hearing loss and it involves destruction of the nerve cells of hearing.
  2. Conductive hearing loss — this hearing loss results from blockages or obstructions that restrict sound conduction before the sound hits the nerve cells of hearing.

Tympanometry is a test that can help to rule out conductive hearing loss, to make sure that there are no blockages, infections, or middle-ear-bone ailments. Conversely, Audiometry, which is described next, will quantify sensorineural hearing loss.

Part 4: Audiometry


The concluding group of tests will be completed in a soundproof room. These tests are collectively referred to as audiometry and will evaluate your hearing range and sensitivity. Audiometry is the best methodology to measure sensorineural hearing loss.

With the use of an audiometer, the hearing specialist will be ready to establish:

  • Which frequencies you can hear well and which you have a hard time with.
  • The minimum decibel levels, at multiple frequencies, at which you perceive sound.
  • The precise measurements connected with your hearing loss (as captured on an audiogram).
  • Your ability to comprehend speech, with or without background noise.

The test itself, from your perspective, will be comfortable and easy. You will be presented with sounds and speech through headsets and will be told to reveal when you can hear the sounds by pressing a button or raising your hand.

Reviewing results and planning treatment

Soon after the testing is complete, your hearing specialist will review your results with you. If your hearing loss requires medical or surgical treatment (due to infections or middle-ear-bone problems, for instance), your hearing specialist can make the appropriate referral.

If your hearing loss can benefit from assistive listening devices or hearing aids, your hearing specialist will collaborate with you to pick the best solution for you, your budget, your lifestyle, and your aesthetic concerns.

Pretty painless for a lifetime of better hearing, isn’t it?

Exploring a Career in the Hearing Care Profession

Although the majority of us remain current with our yearly physical, dental cleaning, and eye examination, we generally fail to take into account the well-being of our hearing. And when our hearing does start to deteriorate, it develops so gradually that we hardly notice and fail to take action. It’s this lack of interaction with hearing care professionals that makes people curious to know what the profession actually entails.

And that’s a shame, because hearing care professionals account for a key part of the healthcare system. It’s through the hearing care professional that the proper functioning of one of our major senses — one for which we have a tendency to take for granted — is preserved or restored.

Considering the fact that we take hearing for granted, we usually also fail to keep in mind just how essential hearing is. With precise hearing, we can greatly improve focus, take pleasure in the details of sound, converse better, and strengthen working relationships. And the hearing care professionals are the ones who see to it that this key sense is functioning properly.

If you’d like to know more about this interesting but little-known healthcare field — or if you’re interested in entering the field yourself — read on.

Attraction to the hearing care field

Hearing care professionals are driven to the field for a number of reasons, but a few key motivating factors are frequently present. First, several practitioners have endured, and continue to experience, hearing issues themselves. Due to the fact that they were themselves helped by a hearing care professional, the urge to return the favor for other individuals is strong.

As an example, Zoe Williams, a hearing care professional in Australia, has moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears. This would have produced an inability to communicate, but thanks to cochlear implants and hearing aids, Zoe is now able to communicate normally. Understanding first-hand how enhanced hearing leads to a much better life, Zoe was determined to enter the field and to assist others in the same manner.

Other practitioners are pulled into the hearing care field thanks to its unique mixture of counseling, problem solving, science, and engineering. Together with learning about the science of hearing and the engineering of hearing technology, practitioners also learn how to work with people in the role of a counselor. Coping with hearing loss is a sensitive situation, and patients present a variety of emotions and personalities. Practitioners must be able to apply the “soft skills” needed to address these difficulties and must work with patients on a personalized level to beat hearing loss.

Training and education

Part of the allure of working in the hearing care profession is the compelling mix of subjects covered as part of the education and training. Those pursuing a career in the field master interesting topics in a range of fields such as:

  • Biology – topics include the anatomy and physiology of hearing, balance, the ear, and the brain, as well as classes in hearing and balance disorders and pharmacology.
  • Physics – topics include the physics of sound, acoustics, and psychoacoustics (how the brain processes sound).
  • Engineering – topics include the design and functioning of hearing technology such as assistive listening devices, hearing aids, and cochlear implants, in addition to the programming of digital hearing aids.
  • Counseling – topics include how to interview patients, how to teach coping skills, and how to train on the use of hearing aids, in addition to other interesting topics in psychology and counseling.
  • Professional practice – topics include diagnosing hearing problems, carrying out and interpreting hearing tests, implementing hearing treatments, fitting and programming hearing aids, professional ethics, and starting a business.

Job functions

Hearing care professionals work in a variety of settings (schools, hospitals, private practices) performing varying activities such as research, teaching, and diagnosing and treating hearing and balance issues.

Basic duties consist of conducting diagnostic tests, interpreting hearing tests, and working with patients on deciding on the most effective hearing treatment, in many cases including the use of hearing aids. Hearing care professionals custom-fit and program hearing aids to best fit the individual and will teach the patient on how to use and maintain them. Hearing care professionals also work with organizations and businesses to reduce the risk of hearing damage in loud work settings.


The benefits cited most regularly by those in the hearing care profession center on the ability to positively influence people’s lives on a very personalized level. Long-lasting friendships between patients and hearing specialists are also common as a result of the personal nature of care.

When patients convey that they can hear again for the first time in a very long time, the emotions can be intense. Patients frequently describe a sense of reconnection to the world and to family, along with improved relationships and an improved overall quality of life.

How many occupations can claim that kind of personal impact?

Avoiding the Biggest Mistake in Treating Your Hearing Loss

Do you recall the Q-Ray Bracelets? You know, the magnetic bracelets that promised to deliver instant and substantial pain relief from arthritis and other chronic diseases?

Well, you won’t see much of that advertising anymore; in 2008, the creators of the Q-Ray Bracelets were legally obligated to return customers a maximum of $87 million due to deceitful and fraudulent advertising.1

The problem had to do with rendering health claims that were not backed by any scientific studies. For that matter, strong research was there to reveal that the magnetized wristbands had NO effect on pain reduction, which did not bode well for the manufacturer but did wonders to win the court case for the Federal Trade Commission.2

The wishful thinking fallacy

Ok, so the Q-Ray bracelets didn’t function (besides the placebo effect), yet they sold extraordinarily well. What gives?

Without delving into the depths of human psychology, the straight forward reply is that we have a powerful tendency to believe in the things that may appear to make our lives better and quite a bit easier.

On an emotional level, you’d absolutely love to believe that donning a $50 wristband will wipe out your pain and that you don’t have to bother with pricey medical and surgical procedures.

If, for example, you happen to suffer the pain of chronic arthritis in your knee, which approach seems more attractive?

        a. Scheduling surgery for a complete knee replacement

        b. Going to the mall to pick up a magnetized bracelet

Your natural inclination is to give the bracelet a chance. You already wish to believe that the bracelet will do the job, so now all you need is a little push from the marketers and some social confirmation from observing other people donning them.

But it is exactly this natural tendency, combined with the tendency to seek out confirming evidence, that will get you into the most trouble.

If it sounds too good to be true…

Keeping in mind the Q-Ray bracelets, let’s say you’re suffering from hearing loss; which choice sounds more appealing?

       a. Scheduling a consultation with a hearing specialist and acquiring professionally programmed hearing aids

       b. Ordering an off-the-shelf personal sound amplifier on the web for 20 bucks

Just as the magnetic wristband seems much more attractive than a visit to the physician or surgeon, the personal sound amplifier seems much more attractive than a trip to the audiologist or hearing instrument specialist.

However, as with the magnetized bracelets, personal sound amplifiers won’t cure anything, either.

The difference between hearing aids and personal sound amplifiers

Before you get the wrong idea, I’m not implying that personal sound amplifiers, also referred to as PSAPs, are fraudulent — or even that they don’t work.

On the contrary, personal sound amplifiers often do deliver results. Just like hearing aids, personal sound amplifiers contain a receiver, a microphone, and an amplifier that pfor that matterick up sound and make it louder. Viewed on that level, personal sound amplifiers work fine — and for that matter, the same is true for the act of cupping your hands behind your ears.

However when you ask if PSAPs work, you’re asking the wrong question. The questions you should be asking are:

  1. How well do they work?
  2. For which type of person do they function best?

These are exactly the questions that the FDA answered when it issued its advice on the distinction between hearing aids and personal sound amplifiers.

As reported by the FDA, hearing aids are defined as “any wearable instrument or device designed for, offered for the purpose of, or represented as aiding persons with or compensating for, impaired hearing.” (21 CFR 801.420)3

On the contrary, personal sound amplifiers are “intended to amplify environmental sound for non-hearing impaired consumers. They are not intended to compensate for hearing impairment.”

Although the distinction is transparent, it’s easy for PSAP manufacturers and retailers to get around the distinction by simply not discussing it. For instance, on a PSAP package, you may find the tagline “turning ordinary hearing into extraordinary hearing.” This claim is imprecise enough to avoid the matter completely without having to explain exactly what the phrase “turning ordinary hearing into extraordinary hearing” even means.

You get what you pay for

As stated by the FDA, PSAPs are simple amplification devices created for people with normal hearing. So if you have normal hearing, and you desire to hear better while you are hunting, bird watching, or tuning in to far off conversations, then a $20 PSAP is well suited for you.

If you have hearing loss, on the other hand, then you’ll require professionally programmed hearing aids. While more expensive, hearing aids offer the power and features required to address hearing loss. Here are a few of the reasons why hearing aids are superior to PSAPs:

  • Hearing aids amplify only the frequencies that you have trouble hearing, while PSAPs amplify all sound indiscriminately. By amplifying all frequencies, PSAPs won’t allow you to hear conversations in the presence of background noise, like when you’re at a party or restaurant.
  • Hearing aids have built in noise reduction and canceling functions, while PSAPs do not.
  • Hearing aids are programmable and can be fine-tuned for maximum hearing; PSAPs are not programmable.
  • Hearing aids contain several features and functions that block out background noise, enable phone use, and provide for wireless connectivity, for example. PSAPs do not normally contain any of these features.
  • Hearing aids come in diverse styles and are custom-molded for maximal comfort and cosmetic appeal. PSAPs are as a rule one-size-fits-all.

Seek the help of a hearing professional

If you believe that you have hearing loss, don’t be enticed by the low-priced PSAPs; rather, schedule a consultation with a hearing specialist. They will be able to accurately quantify your hearing loss and will ensure that you get the most effective hearing aid for your lifestyle and needs. So although the low-cost PSAPs are tempting, in this circumstance you should go with your better judgment and seek expert help. Your hearing is worth the hassle.


  1. Federal Trade Commission: Appeals Court Affirms Ruling in FTCs Favor in Q-Ray Bracelet Case
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of “ionized” wrist bracelets on musculoskeletal pain: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial
  3. Food and Drug Administration: Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff: Regulatory Requirements for Hearing Aid Devices and Personal Sound Amplification Products

8 Reasons Hearing Loss is More Dangerous Than You Think

warning sign

Hearing impairment is hazardously sneaky. It creeps up on a person over the years so slowly you barely notice, making it easy to deny or ignore. And afterwards, when you eventually recognize the symptoms, you shrug it off as bothersome and irritating as its true effects are hidden.

For about 48 million American citizens that claim some extent of hearing loss, the effects are considerably greater than simply annoyance and frustration.1 listed here are 8 reasons why untreated hearing loss is a lot more dangerous than you might believe:

1. Connection to Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

A study from Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute on Aging reveals that those with hearing loss are substantially more liable to develop dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, compared with people who retain their hearing.2

Although the reason for the connection is ultimately undetermined, researchers suspect that hearing loss and dementia could possibly share a shared pathology, or that years and years of stressing the brain to hear could bring on harm. A different explanation is that hearing loss commonly causes social isolation — a recognized risk factor for dementia.

Regardless of the cause, recovering hearing may very well be the optimum prevention, which includes the use of hearing aids.

2. Depression and social isolation

Investigators from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), part of the National Institutes of Health, have observed a strong link between hearing damage and depression among American adults of all ages and races.3

3. Not hearing alerts to danger

Automobile horns, ambulance and law enforcement sirens, and fire alarms all are formulated to warn you to potential hazards. If you miss out on these types of indicators, you put yourself at an elevated risk of injury.

4. Memory impairment and mental decline

Reports suggest that adults with hearing loss encounter a 40% greater rate of decrease in cognitive function in contrast to those with healthy hearing.4 The lead author of the investigation, Frank R. Lin, MD, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University, stated that “going forward for the next 30 or 40 years that from a public health perspective, there’s nothing more important than cognitive decline and dementia as the population ages.” That’s the reason why increasing awareness as to the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline is Dr. Lin’s top concern.

5. Lowered household income

In a survey of more than 40,000 households carried out by the Better Hearing Institute, hearing loss was discovered to negatively influence household income by as much as $12,000 annually, based on the extent of hearing loss.5 individuals who used hearing aids, however, cut this impact by 50%.

The ability to communicate on the job is essential to job performance and advancement. In fact, communication skills are frequently ranked as the number one job-related skill-set coveted by managers and the leading factor for promotion.

6. Auditory deprivation – use it or lose it

When it comes to the human body, “use it or lose it” is a mantra to live by. For example, if we don’t make use of our muscles, they atrophy or shrink as time passes, and we end up losing strength. It’s only through exercise and repetitive use that we can reclaim our physical strength.

The the exact same phenomenon applies to hearing: as our hearing weakens, we get ensnared in a downward spiral that only gets worse. This is recognized as auditory deprivation, and a expanding body of research is strengthening the “hearing atrophy” that can occur with hearing loss.

7. Underlying medical conditions

Even though the most common cause of hearing loss is related to age and enduring exposure to loud noise, hearing loss is at times the symptom of a more significant, underlying medical condition. Potential ailments include:

  • Cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes
  • Otosclerosis – the solidifying of the middle ear bones
  • Ménière’s disease – a disease of the inner ear affecting hearing and balance
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Infections, earwax buildup, or blockages from foreign objects
  • Tumors
  • Medications – there are more than 200 medications and chemicals that are known to cause hearing and balance problems

Due to the severity of some of the ailments, it is imperative that any hearing loss is quickly evaluated.

8. Higher risk of falls

Research has uncovered a large number of connections between hearing loss and dangerous diseases like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and anxiety. A further study carried out by investigators at Johns Hopkins University has uncovered still another discouraging connection: the connection between hearing loss and the risk of falls.6

The research shows that individuals with a 25-decibel hearing loss, characterized as mild, were just about three times more likely to have a history of falling. And for every added 10-decibels of hearing loss, the likelihood of falling increased by 1.4 times.

Don’t wait to get your hearing tested

The encouraging part to all of this negative research is the suggestion that sustaining or recovering your hearing can help to lower or eliminate these risks entirely. For all those that have normal hearing, it is more vital than ever to look after it. And for anyone suffering with hearing loss, it’s vital to seek the services of a hearing specialist immediately.


  1. Hearing Loss Association of America: Basic Facts About Hearing Loss
  2. Johns Hopkins Medicine: Hearing Loss and Dementia Linked in Study
  3. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders: NIDCD Researchers Find Strong Link between Hearing Loss and Depression in Adults
  4. Medscape: Hearing Loss Linked to Cognitive Decline, Impairment
  5. Better Hearing Institute: The Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss on Household Income
  6. Johns Hopkins Medicine: Hearing Loss Linked to Three-Fold Risk of Falling

Professional musicians at greater risk of developing hearing loss

So what causes hearing loss in musicians? Obviously, it’s the loud music, but really it’s the repeated nature of the noise that’s at stake here.   Loud noise will likely irreparably destroy the hair cells of the inner ear, which are the sensory receptors responsible for sending sound to the brain. Like an ample patch of grass worn out from frequent trampling, the hair cells can in a similar fashion be wiped out from repeated overexposure to loud noise – the dissimilarity, of course, being that you can’t grow brand new hair cells.

A musician’s hearing can be damages from the continuous performance of their craft. Fame, wealth, and screaming fans — these are a couple of the terms and phrases you’d pick in order to summarize the everyday life of a professional musician. however, what you probably wouldn’t take into consideration is “hearing loss” or “tinnitus,” the not-so-pleasant side-effects of all that glory, wealth, and screaming.

How musicians, and fans, can protect their ears

The lead vocalist for the band Coldplay, Chris Martin, the lead has dealt with Tinnitus for a decade. Martin has been quoted as saying:
“Looking after your ears is unfortunately something you don’t think about until there’s a problem. I’ve had tinnitus for about 10 years, and since I started protecting my ears it hasn’t got any worse (touch wood). But I wish I’d thought about it earlier. Now we always use moulded filter plugs, or in-ear monitors, to try and protect our ears. You CAN use industrial headphones, but that looks strange at a party.”

Other significant musicians that suffer from hearing loss or tinnitus include Neil Young, Ozzy Osbourne, Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend, Bono, Sting, Ryan Adams, and more, many of which indicate regret that they hadn’t done more to take care of their ears all through their careers.

Hearing loss starts with recurrent exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels (decibels being a unit used to measure loudness). That may well not mean a great deal to you, until you reflect on the decibel levels correlated with common activities:

  • Whisper at 6 feet: 30 decibels (dB)
  • Regular dialogue at 3 feet: 60 – 65 (dB)
  • Motorcycle: 100 dB
  • Front row at a rock show: 120 to 150 dB

Rock shows are literally ear-splittingly loud, and continued unprotected exposure can cause some considerable harm, which several popular musicians know all too well.

Lars Ulrich from Metallica points out:
“If you get a scratch on your nose, in a week that’ll be gone. When you scratch your hearing or damage your hearing, it doesn’t come back. I try to point out to younger kids … once your hearing is gone, it’s gone, and there’s no real remedy.”

In reality, musicians are close to four times more likely to acquire noise-induced hearing loss in contrast with the average person, according to scientists at the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology. The scientific study also discovered that professional musicians are about 57% more likely to suffer from tinnitus — a disorder connected with a repeated ringing in the ears.  Unfortunately, most musicians don’t see an audiologist until it’s too late and they experience:

  • A ringing or buzzing sound in the ears
  • Any pain or discomfort in the ears
  • Difficulty comprehending speech
  • Trouble following discussions in the presence of background noise

The trouble is, when these symptoms are present, the damage has already been done. So, the leading thing a musician can do to deter long-term, permanent hearing loss is to schedule an appointment with an audiologist before symptoms are present.

If you’re a musician, an audiologist can recommend custom made musicians’ plugs or in-ear-monitors that will give protection to your hearing without limiting your musical performance.

Preventing work related hearing loss with high fidelity, custom-fit ear plugs

It’s time you started to preserve your quality of hearing by getting custom-fit ear plugs. If you work in a occupation that exposes you to a high risk for hearing damage, or if you participate in booming shows or sporting events, schedule an appointment with a hearing consultant today. Custom-fit ear plugs will protect your ears, and distinct from the disposable foam varieties, will also maintain the quality of sound.

Check out these little-known facts:
The sound measure at which repeated exposure can result in severe hearing damage: 85 decibels. The sound level hit by a rock concert, which is not-so-good news for musicians or show goers: 100 decibels. With 30 million people in the U.S. exposed to unsafe noise levels, this illustrates one of the top work-related threats over the previous 25 years, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Don’t think it’s just performers who are the ones at risk. Following are some of the decibel levels that come with normal work related activities: a power saw can reach 110 decibels, a newspaper press 97, a chain saw 120, a sporting event 105, and a aircraft takeoff 150. music players, manufacturing plant workers, construction workers, airport personnel, emergency personnel, plumbers, and craftsmen are all at risk of developing extreme hearing loss and tinnitus.

Work-related hearing loss affects thousands

This story plays out time and time again. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that in 2009 there were 21,000 occurrences of occupational hearing loss reported. Kevin Twigg of Stockport, England knows all about the work-related risks of noise. He in fact worked on screening and fixing police car sirens — which reach between 106 to 118 decibels — for more than 30 years.

After retiring, Twigg started to experience severe tinnitus in addition to substantial hearing loss that required the use of hearing aids. Twigg’s employer was found responsible in court, losing a case in which Twigg would win a considerable settlement – all because he failed to take on the protective methods that would bring down the noise levels.

How to protect your ears at work

While you can’t always reduce the noise at work, you can reduce the amount of noise that hits your ear drum. You could just drive to the local store and pick up some disposable foam ear plugs, but as it turns out, there is a much more advantageous alternative. The preferred method requires the use of custom-fit ear plugs, often times referred to as musicians plugs, that your hearing practitioner can tailor specifically to you, your occupation, and your preferences.

Why are custom-fit ear plugs better than the cheap foam kind?

There are several reasons:

1. Prevention of the “Occlusion Effect”
With foam ear plugs, the wearer will perceive a hollow sound in their voice when speaking, singing, or playing an instrument. This bothersome sound is known as the “occlusion effect.” Custom-fit ear plugs are shaped to the ear, forming a deep seal that helps prevent this distracting sound.

2. Preservation of sound quality
Basic foam ear plugs mute speech and music. By suppressing noise mostly in the high frequency range, rather than in the mid-to-low frequency range, music and voices appear to be unnatural and unclear. Foam ear plugs also diminish sound by 30-40 decibels, which is not needed for the deterrence of hearing injury.

Custom-fit ear plugs will lower sound more consistently across frequencies while lessening sound volume by a lower decibel level, thereby maintaining the natural quality of speech and music.

3. Preserving the environment
Throw-away ear plugs are very wasteful:
5 days per week X 52 weeks per year = 260 pairs of foam ear plugs tossed out each year. It’s easier than you think to prevent work-related hearing loss. All you have to do is get custom ear plugs instead of the garden variety.

4. cost & convenience
Custom ear plugs can last up to four years, ordinarily at a price tag of well below $100.
Let’s do some calculations on the throw-away foam plugs:
$3.99 for 10 pairs equals $0.39 per pair
$0.39 per pair X 5 days per week X 52 weeks per year X 4 years = $405.60

With custom-fit ear plugs, you will save cash in the long run and will avoid all of those journeys to the store. No one enjoys purchasing ear plugs, so while the initial visit to the audiologist seems like a pain, you will appreciate the fact later that you went.

A Brief History of Hearing Aids

Consider what hearing aids provide the wearer today. The difference is staggering. They certainly providing an unmatched versatility and comfort level compared with old devices. They offer the user lots more advantages, including the ability to connect to Bluetooth and filter out distracting background noise.

With millions of people donning hearing aids every day to hear more clearly in their daily lives, it’s no wonder the history has evolved the way it has. The technology has gone through leaps and bounds, resulting in devices that are now available in many shapes, sizes, and even colors. Devices used to be hard to carry around, weighing several pounds, contrasted with today’s hearing aids which only weigh a few ounces, if that.

New Advancements

Just think of an old phonograph with the conical sphere and you’ll get a good idea of what the ear trumpet looked like. This was invented back in the 17th century, which were beneficial only to those who suffered from a partial hearing impairment. These were large, cumbersome devices that only served to amplify sound within the immediate environment. As the 18th century approached, they went through even more advancements. As such, several versions were created for the very wealthy, such as the Reynolds Trumpet. This was personally made for the famous painter Joshua Reynolds, featuring a horn-shaped instrument that basically funneled sound into the inner ear.

Vacuum Tubes

Vacuum tubes, put out by Western Electric Co., came next in New York City in 1920. Manufactures built upon the technology that came from Lee De Forest’s finding of the three-component tube years earlier. They offered not only better amplification but also better frequency. However, they were quite large and not very practical. They got smaller as the years wore on, though, until they got to about the size of a small box. The inconvenience of it all still wasn’t very helpful, plus the comfort level was pretty low.

New Possibilities

The 17th and 18th centuries brought with them devices that offered only limited amplification qualities. When the 19th century came about, electrical technologies emerged spurred on by the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. This invention was a catalyst for advancement leading to electrical transmission of speech. Thomas Edison was inspired by this invention and came up with the carbon transmitter for the telephone in 1878. This was designed to boost the basics of the telephone as well as the electrical signal to improve hearing.

First Wearable Devices

It wasn’t till the late 1930′s that hearing aids that could be worn on the ear with relative comfort got popular. These devices were made by a Chicago electronics manufacturer, featuring a thin wire connected to an earpiece and receiver. However, there was also a battery pack which attached to the user’s leg which posed obvious imitations. More compact models emerged during World War II for more reliable service to the user thanks to the invention of printed circuit boards.

Modern Models

Today, most — about 90 percent — of all hearing aids are digital in nature. Models that could be worn behind the ear relatively comfortably were invented in 1964 by Zenith Radio. They featured digital signal-processing chips, followed by hybrid analog-digital models and then fully digital models by 1996. By the year 2000, programmable hearing aids were on the scene that gave users increased flexibility, customization and comfort.