How to Read 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 at first seem. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can probably hear some things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. Most letters may sound clear at high or low volumes but others, like “s” and “b” could get lost. It will become more obvious 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 simply cranking up the volume.

How do I read the results of my audiogram?

Hearing professionals will be able to get a read on the condition of your hearing by making use of this type of hearing test. It won’t look as straightforward as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it did!)

Rather, it’s written on a graph, which is why many individuals find it confusing. But you too can understand a hearing test if you’re aware of what you’re looking at.

Examining volume on an audiogram

Along the left side of the chart 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 capable of hearing it. Higher numbers mean that in order for you to hear it, you will need louder sound.

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

The frequency portion of your hearing test

You hear other things besides volume also. You can also hear a range of frequencies or pitches of sound. Frequencies allow you to distinguish between types of sounds, including the letters of the alphabet.

Along the bottom of the chart, you’ll generally see frequencies that a human ear can hear, starting 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 determine how well you can hear within a span of wavelengths.

So, for instance, 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 around the volume of an elevated, but not yelling, voice). The graph will plot the volumes that the different frequencies will have to reach before you’re able to hear them.

Why measuring both volume and frequency is so important

So in the real world, 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 more difficult to hear or comprehend:

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

Certain specific frequencies might be more difficult for a person with high frequency hearing loss to hear, even within the higher frequency range.

Within the inner ear tiny stereocilia (hair-like cells) vibrate in response to sound waves. You lose the ability to hear in any frequencies which the corresponding hair cells that detect those frequencies have become damaged and died. If all of the cells that detect that frequency are damaged, then you entirely lose your ability to hear that frequency even at higher volumes.

Interacting with other people can become really aggravating if you’re dealing with this type of hearing loss. Your family members could think they need to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have trouble hearing certain frequencies. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister talking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for people with this kind of hearing loss.

We can utilize the hearing test to individualize hearing solutions

We will be able to custom tune a hearing aid for your specific hearing needs once we’re able to understand which frequencies you’re having trouble hearing. Modern 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 adjust the frequency by using frequency compression to another frequency you can hear. Additionally, they can enhance your ability to process background noise.

Modern hearing aids are fine tuned to address your particular hearing requirements rather than just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother listening experience.

Schedule an appointment for a hearing test today if you think you might 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.