November 29, 2011

How Accurate Are Audiograms?

I have been told by some audiologists, that when looking at an audiogram, look at it as more of a prediction or educated guess of how one will hear. It is not an 100% accurate portrayal of how one hears in all situations in the real world. How we hear in the audiological testing booth is vastly different from how we hear at a party, a room with a noisy air conditioner vent, by a beach, in a classroom, when we are sick, when we are tired, a person with a loud deep voice, a person who talks fast, a person with a foreign accent, a person standing nearby vs. a person standing far way, etc.

Looking at my audiogram, I can predict that I will have a lot of trouble hearing soft speech sounds without my hearing aid. I may hear someone say "fact" when really they said "fast" or maybe I will hear "tall" when what was actually said was, "Paul". It's interesting how sometimes I am able to tell the difference and sometimes I cannot. It depends. In an ideal situation, where I am in a quiet room, having a one on one conversation, I may be able to follow the conversation without much trouble.

I like how Hearing Sparks describes hearing as a tricky thing in her post, The Variables of Hearing:
Hearing loss can be a really tricky thing. One of the trickiest things I have found to grasp about hearing loss is how it's not always consistent.
For example, just because I heard someone speaking at a certain tone of voice once and was able to understand them doesn't mean I will be able to understand them the next time they speak. Or because I was able to tell where a sound came from once doesn't mean I can do it again. Sometimes I have an easy time of it and hear someone's question right away and sometimes I just can't make it out no matter how many times they repeat it.
Read the rest of her post here. 

Hearing loss can be complicated.  The results, neatly plotted on an audiogram, can give us an idea, but not the whole picture.


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