Hearing Test Audiograms and How to Interpret Them

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

Determining hearing loss is more complex than it may seem at first. 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 any volume. It will become more obvious why you notice inconsistencies with your hearing when you figure out how to read your hearing test. Because merely turning up the volume isn’t enough.

How do I read the results of my audiogram?

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

Instead, it’s written on a graph, which is why many find it perplexing. But you too can interpret a hearing test if you’re aware of what you’re looking at.

Decoding the volume portion of your hearing test

Along the left side of the chart is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to about 120 (thunder). This number will specify 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 can’t 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 starts at 45-65 dB then you have moderate hearing loss. If you start hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it means 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 section of your audiogram

You hear other things besides volume also. You can also hear different frequencies or pitches of sound. Frequencies help you differentiate between types of sounds, and this includes the letters of the alphabet.

Frequencies which a human ear can hear, from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are generally listed along the lower section of the graph.

We will check how well you’re able to hear frequencies in between and can then plot them on the graph.

So, for instance, 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 about the volume of an elevated, 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 important

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

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

While someone who has 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 little stereocilia (hair-like cells) shake in response to sound waves. If the cells that detect a certain frequency become damaged and ultimately die, you will lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. If all of the cells that detect that frequency are damaged, then you completely lose your ability to hear that frequency even at higher volumes.

Interacting with others can become extremely aggravating if you’re dealing with this type of hearing loss. Your family members might think they have to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have difficulty hearing certain wavelengths. In addition, those who have this kind of hearing loss find background sound 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 program a hearing aid for your particular hearing requirements once we’re able to comprehend which frequencies you’re not able to hear. Contemporary hearing aids have the ability to know exactly what frequencies go into the microphone. It can then raise the volume on that frequency so you can hear it. Or it can adjust the frequency by using frequency compression to another frequency that you can hear. Additionally, they can improve your ability to process background noise.

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

If you believe you might be dealing with 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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