How to Understand Your Hearing Test or Audiogram

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

Determining hearing loss is more technical than it might seem at first. You can most likely hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. The majority of letters may sound clear at any volume but others, like “s” and “b” could get lost. It will become more evident why you notice inconsistencies with your hearing when you figure out 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 determine the state of your hearing by utilizing this type of hearing test. It would be terrific if it looked as basic as a scale from one to ten, but regrettably, that isn’t the situation.

Instead, it’s printed on a graph, and that’s why many people find it challenging. But if you know what you’re looking at, you too can understand the results of your audiogram.

Looking at volume on an audiogram

On the left side of the chart is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to around 120 (thunder). The higher the number, the louder the sound needs to be for you to be able to hear it.

If you can’t hear any sound until it reaches about 30 dB then you have mild hearing loss which is a loss of volume between 26 and 45 dB. 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 have severe hearing loss. 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 have profound hearing loss.

The frequency section of your audiogram

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

Frequencies which a human ear can hear, ranging from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are normally listed on the lower section of the chart.

We will test how well you’re able to hear frequencies in between and can then diagram them on the chart.

So, for illustration, if you have 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 chart.

Is it important to track both frequency and volume?

Now that you know how to read your audiogram, let’s have a look at what those results might mean for you in the real world. Here are some 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
  • Higher pitched voices like women and children tend to have
  • “F”, “H”, “S”
  • Beeps, dings, and timers
  • Music
  • Birds

Certain particular frequencies may be more difficult for someone who has high frequency hearing loss to hear, even in the higher frequency range.

Inside of the inner ear tiny stereocilia (hair-like cells) shake in response to sound waves. If the cells that detect a specific frequency become damaged and ultimately die, you will lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. If all of the cells that pick up that frequency are damaged, then you totally lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.

This kind of hearing loss can make some communications with friends and family extremely aggravating. 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 talking 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 can understand which frequencies you cannot 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’re able to hear it. Or it can change the frequency through frequency compression to another frequency you can hear. Additionally, they can improve your ability to process background noise.

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

Schedule an appointment for a hearing test right away if you think you may be suffering from hearing loss. 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.