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 might at first seem. You can most likely hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. Most letters might sound clear at any volume but others, like “s” and “b” may get lost. When you figure out how to understand your hearing test it becomes clearer why your hearing seems “inconsistent”. It’s because there’s more to hearing than just turning up the volume.

How do I read the results of my audiogram?

Hearing professionals will be able to determine the state of your hearing by utilizing this type of hearing test. It won’t look as straightforward as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be fantastic if it did!)

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

Deciphering the volume section of your hearing test

The volume in Decibels is outlined on the left side of the graph (from 0 dB to about 120 dB). This number will specify 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.

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 volume between 26 and 45 dB. You have moderate hearing loss if your hearing begins at 45-65 dB. If you begin hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it indicates you’re dealing with severe hearing loss. If you are unable to 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 portion of your audiogram

You hear other things besides volume also. You hear sound at different frequencies, commonly called pitches in music. Frequencies allow you to distinguish between types of sounds, and this includes the letters of the alphabet.

On the bottom of the chart, you’ll usually find frequencies that a human ear can hear, going from a low frequency of 125 (deeper than a bullfrog) to a high frequency of 8000 (higher than a cricket)

This test will allow us to ascertain how well you can hear within a range of wavelengths.

So, for example, 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 about the volume of an elevated, 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.

Is it important to measure both frequency and volume?

So in real life, what could the results of this test mean for you? High-frequency hearing loss, which is a quite common type of loss would make it harder to hear or comprehend:

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

Certain particular frequencies may be more difficult for somebody with high frequency hearing loss to hear, even within the higher frequency range.

Inside of the inner ear tiny stereocilia (hair-like cells) vibrate 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 detect that frequency are damaged, then you completely lose your ability to hear that frequency even at higher volumes.

Communicating with others can become really frustrating if you’re dealing with this type of hearing loss. You might have difficulty only hearing certain frequencies, but your family members may assume they have to yell in order for you to hear them 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 kind of hearing loss.

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

We will be able to custom tune a hearing aid for your particular hearing needs once we’re able to comprehend which frequencies you’re not able to hear. Modern hearing aids have the ability to know precisely what frequencies enter the microphone. It can then make that frequency louder so you can hear it. Or it can change the frequency by using frequency compression to a different frequency you can hear. Additionally, they can improve your ability to process background noise.

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

Make an appointment for a hearing test today if you think you may be dealing with 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.

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