How to Read Your Hearing Test or Audiogram

Hearing aids and an otoscope placed on an audiologists desk with an audiogram hearing test chart

Determining hearing loss is more technical than it might at first seem. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can most likely hear certain things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. You may confuse certain letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters just fine at whatever volume. It will become more apparent why you notice inconsistencies with your hearing when you figure out how to interpret your hearing test. Because simply turning up the volume isn’t enough.

How do I understand the results of my audiogram?

An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals employ to ascertain how you hear. It won’t look as simple as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be great if it did!)

Many individuals find the graph format challenging at first. But you too can understand a hearing test if you’re aware of what you’re looking at.

Decoding the volume section of your audiogram

On the left side of the graph is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to around 120 (thunder). This number will determine how loud a sound needs to be for you to be capable of hearing it. Higher numbers mean that in order for you to hear it, you will need louder sound.

If you’re unable to hear any sound until it is about 30 dB then you’re dealing with mild hearing loss which is a loss of sound between 26 and 45 dB. If hearing begins at 45-65 dB then you have moderate hearing loss. If you start hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it indicates you have severe hearing loss. Profound hearing loss means that you can’t hear until the volume gets up to 90 dB or more, which is louder than a lawnmower.

The frequency portion of your audiogram

You hear other things besides volume too. You hear sound at varied frequencies, commonly known as pitches in music. Different types of sounds, including letters of the alphabet, are differentiated by frequency or pitch.

Along the lower section of the graph, you’ll usually see frequencies that a human ear can hear, going from a low frequency of 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to a high frequency of 8000 (higher than a cricket)

This test will allow us to define how well you can hear within a span of frequencies.

So, for example, if you’re dealing with high-frequency hearing loss, in order for you to hear a high-frequency sound it might have to be at least 60 dB (which is around the volume of an elevated, but not yelling, voice). The chart will plot the volumes that the different frequencies will have to reach before you’re able to hear them.

Is it significant to measure both frequency and volume?

So in real life, what could the results of this test mean for you? High-frequency hearing loss, which is a quite common type of loss would make it more difficult to hear or understand:

  • Music
  • Women and children who tend to have higher-pitched voices
  • “F”, “H”, “S”
  • Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
  • Birds
  • Beeps, dings, and timers

Some specific frequencies might be more challenging for someone with high frequency hearing loss to hear, even within the higher frequency range.

Within the inner ear tiny stereocilia (hair-like cells) shake in response to sound waves. You lose the ability to hear in whatever frequencies which the corresponding hair cells that pick up those frequencies have become damaged and have died. If all of the cells that pick up that frequency are damaged, then you completely lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.

This kind of hearing loss can make some communications with loved ones extremely frustrating. Your family members may think they have to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have trouble hearing particular frequencies. And higher frequency sounds, such as your sister talking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for people who have this kind of hearing loss.

Hearing solutions can be individualized by a hearing professional by using a hearing test

When we can recognize which frequencies you cannot hear well or at all, we can fine tune a hearing aid to meet each ear’s distinct hearing profile. Modern hearing aids have the ability to recognize precisely what frequencies go into the microphone. It can then raise the volume on that frequency so you’re able to hear it. Or it can make use of its frequency compression feature to alter the frequency to one you can hear better. Additionally, they can enhance your ability to process background noise.

Modern hearing aids are fine tuned to target your particular hearing requirements instead of just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother listening experience.

If you believe you may be experiencing hearing loss, call us and we can help.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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