Hearing Test Audiograms and How to Read Them

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

It might seem, at first, like measuring hearing loss would be easy. If you’re dealing with hearing loss, you can most likely hear certain things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. The majority of letters may sound clear at high or low volumes but others, such as “s” and “b” could get lost. It will become more apparent why you notice inconsistencies with your hearing when you learn how to interpret your hearing test. That’s because there’s more to hearing than just cranking up the volume.

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

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

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

Reading volume on an audiogram

The volume in Decibels is outlined on the left side of the graph (from 0 dB to around 120 dB). The higher the number, the louder the sound must be for you to hear it.

A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB points to mild hearing loss. You’re dealing with moderate hearing loss if your hearing starts at 45-65 dB. Hearing loss is severe if your hearing begins at 66-85 dB. Profound hearing loss means that you’re unable to hear until the volume gets up to 90 dB or more, which is louder than a lawnmower.

The frequency section of your hearing test

Volume isn’t the only thing you hear. You hear sound at different frequencies, commonly known as pitches in music. Frequencies help you differentiate between types of sounds, and this includes the letters of the alphabet.

Frequencies that a human ear can hear, from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are typically listed along the bottom of the chart.

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

So, for example, 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 about 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 essential to measure both frequency and volume?

So in the real world, what might the results of this test mean for you? High-frequency hearing loss, which is a quite common type of loss would make it more difficult to hear or understand:

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

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 along with sounds. If the cells that detect a certain frequency become damaged and eventually die, you 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.

Interacting with other people can become really aggravating if you’re suffering from this kind of hearing loss. You might have trouble only hearing specific frequencies, but your family members may think they have to yell in order for you to hear them at all. In addition to that, those who have this type of hearing impairment find background sound overshadows louder, higher-frequency sounds such as your sister speaking to you in a restaurant.

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 fine tune a hearing aid to meet each ear’s unique hearing profile. Contemporary hearing aids have the ability to know exactly what frequencies enter the microphone. It can then raise the volume on that frequency so you’re able to hear it. Or it can use its frequency compression feature to change the frequency to one you can hear better. They also have functions that can make processing background sound less difficult.

This creates a smoother more natural hearing experience for the hearing aid wearer because rather than just making everything louder, it’s meeting your personal hearing needs.

If you believe 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.

Questions? Talk To Us.