How to Read Your Hearing Test or Audiogram

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

Measuring hearing loss is more complex than it might at first seem. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can most likely hear some things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. The majority of letters might sound clear at high or low volumes but others, such as “s” and “b” may get lost. It will become more apparent why you notice inconsistencies with your hearing when you figure out how to interpret your hearing test. It’s because there’s more to hearing than just turning up the volume.

When I get my audiogram, how do I decipher it?

Hearing professionals will be able to get a read on the state of your hearing by using this type of hearing test. It won’t look as straightforward as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be great if it did!)

Instead, it’s written on a graph, and that’s why many individuals find it challenging. But you too can interpret a hearing test if you’re aware of what you’re looking at.

Deciphering the volume section of your audiogram

Along the left side of the chart is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to around 120 (thunder). This number will identify how loud a sound has to be for you to be able to hear it. Higher numbers mean that in order for you to hear it, you will require louder sound.

A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB signifies mild hearing loss. If hearing starts at 45-65 dB then you have moderate hearing loss. Hearing loss is severe if your hearing begins at 66-85 dB. If you are unable to hear sound until it gets up to 90 dB or more (louder than the volume of a running lawnmower), it means that you have profound hearing loss.

The frequency section of your hearing test

You hear other things besides volume also. 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.

Frequencies that a human ear can hear, ranging from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are usually listed along the bottom of the graph.

This test will allow us to determine how well you can hear within a range of wavelengths.

So if you have hearing loss in the higher wavelengths, you may need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as loud as 60 dB (the volume of somebody talking at an elevated volume). The graph will plot the volumes that the various frequencies will have to reach before you’re able to hear them.

Why measuring both volume and frequency is so significant

So in the real world, what might 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:

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

While a person who has high-frequency hearing loss has more trouble with high-frequency sounds, some frequencies might seem easier to hear than others.

Inside of the inner ear little stereocilia (hair-like cells) move in response to sound waves. You lose the ability to hear in whatever frequencies which the corresponding hair cells that detect those frequencies have become damaged and died. You will completely lose your ability to hear any frequencies that have lost all of the corresponding hair cells.

Interacting with other people can become really frustrating if you’re dealing with this kind of hearing loss. You might have trouble only hearing certain frequencies, but your family members might assume they have to yell to be heard at all. In addition, those with this kind of hearing impairment find background noise overshadows louder, higher-frequency sounds like your sister speaking to you in a restaurant.

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

We will be able to custom program a hearing aid for your particular hearing requirements once we’re able to comprehend which frequencies you’re having trouble hearing. Contemporary hearing aids have the ability to know exactly what frequencies go into the microphone. The hearing aid can be programmed to boost whatever frequency you’re having trouble hearing. Or it can make use of its frequency compression feature to change the frequency to one you can better hear. In addition, they can improve your ability to process background noise.

This creates a smoother more normal hearing experience for the hearing aid wearer because rather than simply making everything louder, it’s meeting your personal hearing needs.

If you think you might 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.