How to Interpret Your Hearing Test or Audiogram

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

It may seem, at first, like measuring hearing loss would be easy. You can probably hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. You may confuse particular letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters perfectly fine at any volume. When you figure out how to interpret your hearing test it becomes more obvious why your hearing seems “inconsistent”. Because merely turning up the volume isn’t enough.

How do I read the results of my audiogram?

An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals utilize to ascertain how you hear. It would be wonderful if it looked as simple as a scale from one to ten, but regrettably, that isn’t the situation.

Many people find the graph format confusing at first. But if you understand what you’re looking at, you too can understand the results of your audiogram.

Looking at volume on a hearing test

On the left side of the graph is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to around 120 (thunder). This number will identify how loud a sound has to be for you to be able to hear it. Higher numbers mean that in order for you to hear it, you will need louder sound.

If you’re unable to hear any sound until it reaches around 30 dB then you have mild hearing loss which is a loss of sound between 26 and 45 dB. You’re dealing with moderate hearing loss if your hearing begins at 45-65 dB. Hearing loss is severe if your hearing starts at 66-85 dB. If you can’t hear sound until it reaches 90 dB or more (louder than the volume of a running lawnmower), it means that you’re dealing with profound hearing loss.

Examining frequency on a audiogram

You hear other things besides volume too. You hear sound at different frequencies, commonly known as pitches in music. Different types of sounds, including letters of the alphabet, are distinguished by frequency or pitch.

On the lower section of the graph, you’ll usually find frequencies that a human ear can detect, going from a low frequency of 125 (lower 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 wavelengths.

So if you’re dealing with hearing loss in the higher wavelengths, you might need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as high as 60 dB (the volume of somebody talking at a raised volume). The volume that the sound must reach for you to hear specific frequencies varies and will be plotted on the chart.

Is it significant to track both frequency and volume?

Now that you know how to interpret your audiogram, let’s look at what those results might mean for you in the real world. High-frequency hearing loss, which is a quite common form of loss would make it more difficult to hear or comprehend:

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

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

Inside of your inner ear there are very small hair-like nerve cells that vibrate along with sounds. You lose the ability to hear in whatever frequencies which the corresponding hair cells that detect those frequencies have become damaged and have died. You will entirely lose your ability to hear any frequencies that have lost all of the corresponding hair cells.

Interacting with other people can become extremely aggravating if you’re suffering from this type of hearing loss. You may have trouble only hearing some frequencies, but your family members may think they have to yell in order for you to hear them at all. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister speaking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for individuals with this type of hearing loss.

We can use the hearing test to individualize hearing solutions

When we are able to understand which frequencies you don’t hear well or at all, we can fine tune a hearing aid to meet each ear’s unique hearing profile. In contemporary digital hearing aids, if a frequency enters the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid immediately knows if you can hear that frequency. It can then raise the volume on that frequency so you’re able to hear it. Or it can utilize its frequency compression feature to alter the frequency to one you can hear better. 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 listening experience.

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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