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 might seem, at first, 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. You might confuse particular letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters perfectly fine at any volume. When you figure out how to interpret your hearing test it becomes clearer why your hearing is “inconsistent”. Because merely turning up the volume isn’t enough.

How do I understand the results of my audiogram?

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

Many individuals find the graph format confusing at first. But you too can interpret a hearing test if you’re aware of what you’re looking at.

Looking at volume on a hearing test

The volume in Decibels is detailed on the left side of the graph (from 0 dB to around 120 dB). This number will determine how loud a sound needs to be for you to be capable of hearing it. Higher numbers signify that in order for you to hear it, you will need louder sound.

If you can’t hear any sound until it is around 30 dB then you’re dealing with mild hearing loss which is a loss of sound between 26 and 45 dB. You’re dealing with moderate hearing loss if your hearing starts at 45-65 dB. Hearing loss is severe if your hearing starts at 66-85 dB. 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’re dealing with profound hearing loss.

Examining frequency on a hearing test

You hear other things besides volume too. 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.

Along the lower section of the graph, you’ll typically find frequencies that a human ear can detect, starting from a low frequency of 125 (deeper than a bullfrog) to a high frequency of 8000 (higher than a cricket)

We will check how well you hear frequencies in between and can then plot them on the graph.

So, for example, if you’re dealing with high-frequency hearing loss, in order for you to hear a high-frequency sound it might have to be at least 60 dB (which is about the volume of a raised, but not yelling, voice). The chart 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 significant

Now that you understand how to interpret your audiogram, let’s have a look at what those results may mean for you in real life. Here are a few sounds that would be more difficult to hear if you have the very prevalent form of high frequency hearing loss:

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

Certain particular frequencies might be more difficult for someone who has high frequency hearing loss to hear, even within the higher frequency range.

Inside of the inner ear little stereocilia (hair-like cells) vibrate in response to sound waves. If the cells that detect a certain frequency become damaged and eventually die, you will lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. If all of the cells that pick up that frequency are damaged, then you entirely lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.

Communicating with other people can become very aggravating if you’re suffering from this type of hearing loss. Your family members could think they have to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have difficulty hearing certain wavelengths. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister talking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for individuals who have this type of hearing loss.

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

When we are able to understand which frequencies you cannot hear well or at all, we can program a hearing aid to meet each ear’s unique hearing profile. Contemporary hearing aids have the ability to recognize exactly what frequencies enter the microphone. It can then raise the volume on that frequency so you can hear it. Or it can adjust the frequency by using frequency compression to a different frequency that you can hear. In addition, they can improve your ability to process background noise.

This creates a smoother more natural hearing experience for the hearing aid wearer because instead of just 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.

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