Percentage Of Hearing Loss | Why Your Word Recogniton Score (WRS) Is Critical

– Every time someone tells me they have a certain
percentage of hearing loss, it drives me crazy. This is because hearing
loss has so many factors that are involved in it that you can't possibly identify
it as a single percentage. That's why, in this video, I'm gonna talk about the only percentage
from your hearing test that you should care about,
your Word Recognition Score. Coming up. (upbeat pop music) Hi guys, Cliff Olson, Doctor of Audiology and founder of Applied Hearing
Solutions in Anthem, Arizona, and on this channel, I cover a bunch of
hearing-related information to help make you a
better-informed consumer. So if you're into that, consider hitting the Subscribe button. I'll be honest. I can understand why someone would want to classify their hearing
loss in a specific percentage. After all, it can be easy
to convey that percentage to another individual to let them know how much communication
difficulty you're having. But, ultimately, it tells us nothing about how much hearing
loss you actually have. And this number is
typically made up by looking at the X's and O's on the
graph portion of an audiogram.

And I think the easiest way
to explain this to you is to actually take a look at an audiogram to show you what I'm talking about. Let me explain what the X's and O's mean. They are how an audiologist will plot your ability to hear the beeps that are presented during a hearing test. The lower the X's and O's on the graph, the louder we need to play the
sound before you can hear it. Hence, the lower the X's and O's, the poorer your hearing ability. In this case, you may be tempted to interpret this as a 50% hearing loss since these marks are about
halfway down the graph.

But what about this hearing loss? This individual has normal
hearing in the low frequencies and a severe hearing loss
in the high frequencies. How is it possible to give
a percentage of hearing loss based on the X's and O's? The answer is, you can't. If we want to understand how much hearing loss you actually have, then we have to understand what your Word Recognition Score is. Your Word Recognition Score
is essentially testing your ability to understand speech when that speech is presented
at an audible level to you.

This will give us much more insight to what your actually hearing ability is. This is how it works. First, we amplify sound to a level that we know you can hear, based on the X's and O's
of the Pure Tone Beep test that I mentioned before. Then we play you a list of either 25 or 50 single syllable words and have you repeat those
words back to us out-loud. We then score the
percentage of those words that you get correct. For instance, if you get
20 out of 25 words correct in your right ear, we would call it an 80%
Word Recognition Score. If you get 10 of 25 words
correct in your left ear, we would call it a 40%
Word Recognition Score. Your Word Recognition Score is
significantly more important than the X's and O's
that you see on a graph. You could have really bad X's and O's and have a really good
Word Recognition Score. And, on the other hand, you could have really good X's and O's on that graph and have a horrible
Word Recognition Score. Essentially, this Word
Recognition Score will let us know how much success you
should be able to expect with hearing devices.

If we're able to program
your hearing devices to your hearing loss
prescription, it will let us know if those sounds being
presented back to your brain will be clear or not. Without understanding your
Word Recognition Score in addition to the X's
and O's on the graph of your audiogram, then
we really have no idea what your actual hearing loss is. So what factors determine what your Word Recognition Score will be? Well, there's three of 'em. And number one is your inner hair cells. Your inner hair cells are
located inside of your cochlea, otherwise known as your hearing organ. These are the cells that actually take the vibration of sound and send them up to your brain.

If these hair cells are damaged, then there's no way for them to clearly send the
sound up to your brain. So you might be hearing sound, but you won't be able to
to clearly understand it. Factor number two is your auditory nerve. Your auditory nerve is
what takes that sound from your inner hair cells and sends it up to your brain. So if there's something
obstructing the pathway of this transmission of sound, then it won't actually
make it to your brain.

And by the time it gets
there, it's distorted. This can be caused by things like a tumor or auditory neuropathy. And factor number three
is your brain function. If your brain isn't capable of correctly interpreting these
sounds once they get there, your Word Recognition Score will drop. Now, there's still a
lot of ongoing research on this aspect of hearing, but I can tell you that researchers are
constantly learning more about our brain's
involvement with hearing. It's important to note that once your Word
Recognition Score declines, it's typically permanent. Unless you get a Cochlear implant to bypass those inner hair cells and stimulate the nerve directly, you won't be able to get any
better speech understanding from amplified sound.

On the other hand, you could wait for hair cell regeneration to come out, but that is probably decades away. There is actually one trick to improve your Word Recognition Score without going through surgery and that trick is actually
hearing with both ears. And when I say hearing with both ears, I mean if you have a hearing
loss in both of your ears, it is extremely important to
amplify both of those ears so your brain has more
information to work with. Not only does this significantly improve your Word Recognition Score, this will also help improve your ability to hear in background noise and localize what direction
sound is coming from. All right, so now that you know what a Word Recognition Score is, can you see how much more important it is to know that percentage than it is by coming
up with some percentage based off of the X's and
O's on your audiogram? As long as your Word Recognition
Score is decently high, then your prognosis for success with hearing
aids is also high.

And do us a favor. The next time that you're gonna tell us what your percentage of hearing loss is, please tell us what your
Word Recognition Score is. It will give us a lot more information and be able to determine what treatment option is right for you. Now, if only there was a
score that could tell us how well you would hear
in background noise. Well, actually, there is. And I actually already
made a video about it and you can find that video
linked in the card up here and in the description below. So make sure that you check that out. That's it for this video. If you liked it, please share it. And if you want to see other
videos just like this one, go ahead and hit that Subscribe button. I'll see you next time. (upbeat pop music)

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