How to Understand Your Hearing Test or Audiogram

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

It may seem, initially, like measuring hearing loss would be easy. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can most likely hear certain things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. Most letters may sound clear at any volume but others, like “s” and “b” may get lost. It will become more obvious why you have inconsistencies with your hearing when you figure out how to interpret your hearing test. That’s because there’s more to hearing than just turning up the volume.

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

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

Rather, it’s printed on a graph, which is why many individuals find it perplexing. But you too can understand a hearing test if you know what you’re looking at.

Decoding the volume portion of your hearing test

On the left side of the graph is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to about 120 (thunder). 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 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’re dealing with 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.

Reading frequency on a audiogram

Volume isn’t the only thing you hear. You can also hear a range of frequencies or pitches of sound. Different types of sounds, including letters of the alphabet, are distinguished by frequency or pitch.

Frequencies which a human ear can hear, from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are generally listed along the lower section of the graph.

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

So if you have hearing loss in the higher frequencies, you might need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as loud as 60 dB (the volume of someone talking at an elevated volume). The graph will plot the volumes that the different frequencies will need to reach before you’re able to hear them.

Why measuring both volume and frequency is so important

Now that you understand how to interpret your hearing test, let’s take a look at what those results may 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:

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

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

Inside your inner ear you have very small hair-like nerve cells that move with sounds. If the cells that pick up 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 completely lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.

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

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

We will be able to custom program a hearing aid for your specific hearing requirements once we’re able to understand which frequencies you’re having trouble hearing. In modern digital hearing aids, if a frequency goes into the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid instantly knows if you can hear that frequency. The hearing aid can be programmed to boost whatever frequency you’re having difficulty hearing. Or it can adjust the frequency through frequency compression to another frequency you can hear. Additionally, they can improve your ability to process background noise.

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

If you believe you may 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.