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 may 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 might 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 learn how to read your hearing test. Because simply turning up the volume isn’t enough.

How do I interpret 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 would be great if it looked as simple as a scale from one to ten, but regrettably, that’s not the case.

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

Interpreting the volume section of your audiogram

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

A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB indicates mild hearing loss. If hearing begins at 45-65 dB then you have moderate hearing loss. 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 can’t hear until the volume reaches 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 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.

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

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 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.

Why measuring both volume and frequency is so significant

So in the real world, what might the results of this test mean for you? Here are some sounds that would be harder to hear if you have the very prevalent form of high frequency hearing loss:

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

Some specific frequencies might be more challenging for someone with high frequency hearing loss to hear, even within the higher frequency range.

Within the inner ear little stereocilia (hair-like cells) move in response to sound waves. If the cells that pick up a certain frequency become damaged and ultimately die, you will lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. You will totally lose your ability to hear any frequencies that have lost all of the related hair cells.

This kind of hearing loss can make some interactions with loved ones very frustrating. Your family members could think they have to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have trouble hearing certain wavelengths. And higher frequency sounds, such as your sister talking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for people who have this type of hearing loss.

We can utilize the hearing test to individualize hearing solutions

When we can understand which frequencies you can’t 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 know exactly what frequencies go into the microphone. It can then make that frequency louder so you can hear it. Or it can change the frequency through frequency compression to a different frequency you can hear. In addition, they can enhance your ability to process background noise.

Modern hearing aids are programmed to address your specific 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 right away 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.