How to Read Your Hearing Test or Audiogram

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

It might seem, initially, like measuring hearing loss would be easy. You can most likely hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. The majority of letters may sound clear at high or low volumes but others, like “s” and “b” could get lost. It will become more obvious why you have inconsistencies with your hearing when you figure out how to interpret your hearing test. That’s because there’s more to hearing than simply turning up the volume.

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

An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals employ to determine how you hear. It would be terrific if it looked as basic as a scale from one to ten, but unfortunately, that’s not the case.

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

Decoding the volume section of your audiogram

The volume in Decibels is indexed on the left side of the chart (from 0 dB to about 120 dB). This number will identify how loud a sound has to be for you to be capable of hearing it. Higher numbers signify that in order for you to hear it, you will need louder sound.

If you’re unable to hear any sound until it is around 30 dB then you’re dealing with mild hearing loss which is a loss of volume between 26 and 45 dB. If hearing starts at 45-65 dB then you’re dealing with moderate hearing loss. If you start hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it indicates you have severe hearing loss. 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 portion of your hearing test

You hear other things besides volume too. You can also hear different frequencies or pitches of sound. Different types of sounds, including letters of the alphabet, are distinguished by frequency or pitch.

On the bottom of the chart, you’ll generally see frequencies that a human ear can hear, starting from a low frequency of 125 (deeper than a bullfrog) to a high frequency of 8000 (higher than a cricket)

This test will let us ascertain how well you can hear within a span of frequencies.

So, for illustration, if you have 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 a raised, but not yelling, voice). The volume that the sound needs to reach for you to hear each frequency varies and will be plotted on the graph.

Why measuring both volume and frequency is so essential

Now that you know how to interpret your audiogram, let’s take a look at what those results might mean for you in real life. Here are some sounds that would be harder to hear if you have the very prevalent form of high frequency hearing loss:

  • Music
  • Birds
  • Higher pitched voices like women and children tend to have
  • Beeps, dings, and timers
  • “F”, “H”, “S”
  • Whispers, even if hearing volume is good

Some particular frequencies may be more difficult for someone who has high frequency hearing loss to hear, even within the higher frequency range.

Within the inner ear tiny stereocilia (hair-like cells) vibrate in response to sound waves. If the cells that detect a specific frequency become damaged and ultimately die, you lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. If all of the cells that detect that frequency are damaged, then you entirely lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.

Interacting with other people can become really aggravating if you’re suffering from this type of hearing loss. Your family members could think they have to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have difficulty hearing particular wavelengths. In addition, those who have this type of hearing loss find background noise overpowers louder, higher-frequency sounds such as your sister talking to you in a restaurant.

We can use the hearing test to personalize hearing solutions

We will be able to custom tune a hearing aid for your particular hearing requirements once we’re able to understand which frequencies you’re having trouble hearing. In contemporary digital hearing aids, if a frequency enters the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid instantly knows if you can hear that frequency. It can then make that frequency louder so you’re able to hear it. Or it can utilize its frequency compression feature to adjust the frequency to one you can hear better. They also have functions that can make processing background sound easier.

This delivers a smoother more natural hearing experience for the hearing aid wearer because rather than just making everything louder, it’s meeting your unique hearing needs.

Make an appointment for a hearing exam right away if you think you might be dealing with hearing loss. 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.