Hearing Test Audiograms and How to Interpret Them

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

It may seem, initially, like measuring hearing loss would be simple. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can most likely hear some things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. You might 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 learn how to interpret your hearing test. Because simply turning up the volume isn’t enough.

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 making use of this type of hearing test. It would be terrific if it looked as basic as a scale from one to ten, but sadly, that’s not the situation.

Many people find the graph format challenging at first. But if you are aware of what you’re looking at, you too can interpret the results of your audiogram.

Deciphering the volume portion of your hearing test

The volume in Decibels is listed on the left side of the graph (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 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. If you begin hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it means you’re dealing with severe hearing loss. If you are unable to hear sound until it reaches 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 audiogram

Volume’s not the only thing you hear. You hear sound at varied frequencies, commonly known as pitches in music. Frequencies help you differentiate between types of sounds, including the letters of the alphabet.

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

We will check how well you hear frequencies in between and can then diagram them on the graph.

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 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 important to measure both frequency and volume?

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

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

While someone with high-frequency hearing loss has more difficulty with high-frequency sounds, some frequencies may seem easier to hear than others.

Inside of 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 detect that frequency are damaged, then you entirely lose your ability to hear that frequency even at higher volumes.

Communicating with others can become very frustrating if you’re dealing with this type of hearing loss. Your family members could think they need to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have difficulty hearing particular wavelengths. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister speaking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for people with this kind of hearing loss.

We can utilize the hearing test to individualize hearing solutions

When we can understand which frequencies you don’t hear well or at all, we can program a hearing aid to meet each ear’s unique hearing profile. Modern hearing aids have the ability to recognize exactly what frequencies enter the microphone. It can then make that frequency louder so you can hear it. Or it can use its frequency compression feature to change the frequency to one you can hear better. In addition, they can improve your ability to process background noise.

Modern hearing aids are programmed to target your specific hearing needs rather than just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother hearing experience.

If you believe you might be dealing with hearing loss, contact 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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