How to Understand Your Hearing Test or Audiogram

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

Measuring hearing loss is more technical than it might at first seem. You can probably hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. Most letters may sound clear at any volume but others, such as “s” and “b” could get lost. 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?

Hearing professionals will be able to get a read on the state of your hearing by using this type of hearing test. It would be terrific if it looked as simple as a scale from one to ten, but sadly, that’s not the situation.

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

Interpreting the volume portion of your hearing test

The volume in Decibels is listed on the left side of the chart (from 0 dB to around 120 dB). This number will identify 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 require louder sound.

A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB signifies mild hearing loss. If hearing begins at 45-65 dB then you’re dealing with moderate hearing loss. If you start hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it means you’re dealing with severe hearing loss. If you can’t hear sound until it gets up to 90 dB or more (louder than the volume of a running lawnmower), it means that you have profound hearing loss.

Reading frequency on a hearing test

Volume’s not the only thing you hear. You hear sound at different frequencies, commonly called pitches in music. Frequencies help you distinguish between types of sounds, including the letters of the alphabet.

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.

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

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 around the volume of a raised, but not yelling, voice). The graph will plot the volumes that the various frequencies will need to reach before you’re able to hear them.

Is it significant to measure both frequency and volume?

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. High-frequency hearing loss, which is a very common form of loss would make it more difficult to hear or comprehend:

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

Some particular frequencies may be more difficult for someone who has high frequency hearing loss to hear, even in the higher frequency range.

Inside of the inner ear tiny stereocilia (hair-like cells) move in response to sound waves. If the cells that detect a specific 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 completely lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.

This type of hearing loss can make some interactions with loved ones extremely frustrating. 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. In addition, those with this kind of hearing loss find background sound overpowers louder, higher-frequency sounds like 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 tune a hearing aid for your particular hearing needs once we’re able to understand which frequencies you’re having trouble hearing. Modern hearing aids have the ability to recognize precisely 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. Additionally, they can improve your ability to process background noise.

This delivers a smoother more normal hearing experience for the hearing aid user because rather than just making everything louder, it’s meeting your personal hearing needs.

If you think 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.