Hearing Test Audiograms and How to Understand Them

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

It might seem, initially, like measuring hearing loss would be simple. You can probably hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. You might confuse certain letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters just fine at whatever volume. It will become more apparent why you have inconsistencies with your hearing when you learn how to read your hearing test. Because merely turning up the volume isn’t enough.

How do I read the results of my audiogram?

An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals employ to determine how you hear. It would be great if it looked as simple as a scale from one to ten, but unfortunately, that’s not the situation.

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

Deciphering the volume section of your audiogram

The volume in Decibels is outlined on the left side of the chart (from 0 dB to around 120 dB). This number will identify how loud a sound has to be for you to be able to hear it. Higher numbers signify that in order for you to hear it, you will require louder sound.

If you’re unable to hear any sound until it is around 30 dB then you have mild hearing loss which is a loss of sound between 26 and 45 dB. If hearing starts at 45-65 dB then you’re dealing with moderate hearing loss. If you start hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it indicates you have 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.

Examining frequency on a audiogram

Volume’s not 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 differentiated by frequency or pitch.

Frequencies that a human ear can hear, ranging from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are normally listed on the bottom of the graph.

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

So if you’re dealing with hearing loss in the higher wavelengths, you may need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as loud as 60 dB (the volume of somebody talking at an elevated volume). The volume that the sound needs to reach for you to hear each frequency varies and will be plotted on the chart.

Is it important to measure both frequency and volume?

Now that you understand how to read your hearing test, let’s look at what those results may mean for you in the real world. High-frequency hearing loss, which is a very common form of loss would make it harder to hear or understand:

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

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

Inside of your inner ear there are tiny hair-like nerve cells that vibrate 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. You will completely lose your ability to hear any frequencies that have lost all of the related hair cells.

Communicating with others can become really aggravating if you’re dealing with this type of hearing loss. You may have difficulty only hearing certain frequencies, but your family members may assume they need to yell to be heard at all. In addition to that, those with this kind of hearing loss find background sound overshadows louder, higher-frequency sounds such as your sister speaking to you in a restaurant.

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

When we can understand which frequencies you can’t hear well or at all, we can fine tune a hearing aid to meet each ear’s distinct hearing profile. In contemporary digital hearing aids, if a frequency goes into the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid immediately knows whether you can hear that frequency. It can then raise the volume on that frequency so you’re able to hear it. Or it can make use of its frequency compression feature to adjust the frequency to one you can better hear. They also have functions that can make processing background sound simpler.

Modern hearing aids are programmed 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 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.