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 technical than it might seem at first. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can probably hear certain things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. The majority of letters might sound clear at high or low volumes but others, like “s” and “b” may get lost. It will become more apparent why you have inconsistencies with your hearing when you figure out how to read your hearing test. Because merely turning up the volume isn’t enough.

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

An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals employ to ascertain how you hear. It won’t look as simple as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be fantastic if it did!)

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

Interpreting the volume section of your hearing test

On the left side of the graph is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to about 120 (thunder). This number will define how loud a sound needs to be for you to be capable of hearing 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 indicates mild hearing loss. You’re dealing with moderate hearing loss if your hearing starts at 45-65 dB. If you begin hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it indicates 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.

Examining frequency on a hearing test

You hear other things besides volume too. You hear sound at varied frequencies, commonly called 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, from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are normally listed along the bottom of the chart.

This test will allow us to figure out how well you can hear within a span of wavelengths.

So, for illustration, 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 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.

Why tracking both volume and frequency is so important

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

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

Some specific frequencies may be more challenging for somebody with high frequency hearing loss to hear, even within the higher frequency range.

Inside of your inner ear you have very small hair-like nerve cells that vibrate with sounds. If the cells that pick up a specific frequency become damaged and eventually die, you will lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. You will entirely lose your ability to hear any frequencies that have lost all of the corresponding hair cells.

Interacting with others can become extremely aggravating if you’re suffering from this kind of hearing loss. You may have difficulty only hearing some frequencies, but your family members might 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 with this type of hearing loss.

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

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 distinct hearing profile. In contemporary digital hearing aids, if a frequency goes into the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid immediately knows whether you can hear that frequency. The hearing aid can be fine tuned to boost whatever frequency you’re having difficulty hearing. Or it can change the frequency by using frequency compression to another frequency you can hear. They also have features that can make processing background sound easier.

Modern hearing aids are fine tuned to address your specific hearing requirements instead of just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother hearing experience.

If you believe 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.