Hearing Test Audiograms and How to Read Them

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

Determining hearing loss is more technical than it may at first seem. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can probably hear certain things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. You may confuse particular letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters just fine at whatever volume. When you figure out how to interpret your hearing test it becomes clearer why your hearing is “inconsistent”. It’s because there’s more to hearing than simply turning up the volume.

How do I read the results of my audiogram?

Hearing professionals will be able to determine the condition of your hearing by utilizing this type of hearing test. It would be great if it looked as basic as a scale from one to ten, but sadly, that isn’t the case.

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

Interpreting the volume section of your audiogram

The volume in Decibels is detailed 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 indicates mild hearing loss. You have moderate hearing loss if your hearing starts at 45-65 dB. If you begin hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it means you have severe hearing loss. Profound hearing loss means that you’re unable to hear until the volume reaches 90 dB or more, which is louder than a lawnmower.

The frequency portion of your audiogram

You hear other things besides volume also. You can also hear a range of frequencies or pitches of sound. Frequencies help you differentiate between types of sounds, including the letters of the alphabet.

Frequencies that a human ear can hear, ranging from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are generally listed on 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 chart.

So, for instance, if you’re dealing with high-frequency hearing loss, in order for you to hear a high-frequency sound it may have to be at least 60 dB (which is around the volume of a raised, but not yelling, voice). The volume that the sound must reach for you to hear specific frequencies varies and will be plotted on the graph.

Why tracking both volume and frequency is so essential

So in real life, what might the outcome of this test mean for you? Here are a few sounds that would be more difficult to hear if you have the very common form of high frequency hearing loss:

  • Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
  • “F”, “H”, “S”
  • Music
  • Beeps, dings, and timers
  • Birds
  • 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, certain frequencies might seem easier to hear than others.

Inside of your inner ear you have very small hair-like nerve cells that vibrate with sounds. You lose the ability to hear in any frequencies which the corresponding hair cells that detect 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 even at higher volumes.

Interacting with others can become really frustrating if you’re suffering from this type of hearing loss. You might have difficulty only hearing certain frequencies, but your family members may assume they have to yell to be heard at all. And higher frequency sounds, such as your sister speaking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for individuals who have this type of hearing loss.

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

When we can recognize which frequencies you can’t hear well or at all, we can program a hearing aid to meet each ear’s unique hearing profile. Contemporary hearing aids have the ability to recognize exactly what frequencies enter the microphone. The hearing aid can be fine tuned to boost whatever frequency you’re having trouble hearing. Or it can make use of its frequency compression feature to adjust the frequency to one you can better hear. Additionally, they can improve your ability to process background noise.

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

If you think you may 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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