What is this chart the Dr. gave me about my child's hearing? What is an audiogram? Who is an audiologist? What is an otolaryngologist? When you have a child newly diagnosed with hearing loss, the last thing you want are big terms thrown at you. You want to know what is up with your child and how you can make him/her the most successful kid s/he can be.
An Otolaryngologist is the ear, nose, and throat doctor. This is the person who checks the anatomy of your child's ear and sees if there is anything wrong, missing, etc. with the ear itself. The Audiologist (not an MD, but some might have PhD's) is the person who tests your child's hearing with a machine that puts out beeps and that the child listens to. The audiogram is the chart of the child's hearing.
I have enclosed a very common audiogram from
http://livingwithaneureleccochlearimplant.blogspot.com/2012/04/my-6-month-hearing-therapy-review.html . This picture includes the pitch or frequency of sounds across the top of the chart. The sounds that are low are on the left and the sounds that are high are on the right. It also includes the loudness or decibels that sounds make along the left side up and down. The pictures represent tones (sounds) that are created. If you line up the parts of the chart, you will see how low/high frequency a sound is and at what level loudness it is created. For example, whispering leaves are very quiet and midrange level. They create a noise level of about 5dB. An airplane, however, is a high pitched noise that has sound as loud as 110dB. The speech sounds (the letters inside of the 'banana') are created around 40-50dB. This is crucial.
If your child's hearing loss averages out to be higher than 40dB, then your child may be missing many of the speech sounds. If your child has a 90dB loss, for example, s/he is only able to hear things LOUDER than 90dB. So, hearing a guitar, lawn mower, helicopter, or airplane would be fine. Hearing someone speaking would not be. If your child has a 30dB hearing loss, s/he would be able to hear anything LOUDER than 30 dB, so s/he would hear most all of the speech sounds in a quiet environment. If they are diagnosed with 'high frequency hearing loss” then the child would not hear high frequency pitches. So, s/he might miss out on /f/, /sh/ , /s/,/k/. This can affect the speech that your child produces. S/he might not kindle these sounds and it can carry over into written work, as well.
There is a lot to know about your child's hearing, but you have every right to understand it all. Ask questions. Ask again. Request a copy of an audiogram. Request your child's hearing loss be put on an audiogram chart with pictures like this one. Most parents state that it makes much more sense than a traditional hearing loss audiogram.
Allison Schley has been in the field of deaf and hard of hearing education for 20 years. She founded a nonprofit for families with hearing loss. She most recently wrote a children's book, entitled Forever Friends. This book shows the how a deaf dog and deaf boy teach the world that all kids are good and being deaf is okay.