How to Interpret 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 may at first seem. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can probably hear some things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. You may confuse certain letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters just fine at any volume. When you figure out how to read your hearing test it becomes clearer why your hearing seems “inconsistent”. That’s because there’s more to hearing than simply turning up the volume.

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

Many individuals find the graph format complicated at first. But if you know what you’re looking at, you too can interpret the results of your audiogram.

Deciphering the volume portion of your audiogram

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

A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB signifies mild hearing loss. If hearing begins at 45-65 dB then you have moderate hearing loss. Hearing loss is severe if your hearing begins 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.

Reading frequency on a hearing test

Volume’s not the only thing you hear. You hear sound at different frequencies, commonly known as pitches in music. Frequencies help you distinguish between types of sounds, and this includes 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 normally listed along the lower section of the graph.

This test will let us figure out how well you can hear within a span of frequencies.

So, for instance, 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 around the volume of an elevated, but not yelling, voice). The chart will plot the volumes that the various frequencies will have to reach before you can hear them.

Is it essential to measure both frequency and volume?

So in the real world, what could the results of this test mean for you? High-frequency hearing loss, which is a very common type of loss would make it harder to hear or understand:

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

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

Inside of your inner ear you have tiny hair-like nerve cells that vibrate with sounds. You lose the ability to hear in whatever frequencies which the corresponding hair cells that detect those frequencies have become damaged and have died. You will totally lose your ability to hear any frequencies that have lost all of the corresponding hair cells.

Communicating with other people can become really aggravating if you’re suffering from this type of hearing loss. You may have difficulty only hearing certain frequencies, but your family members might assume they need to yell to be heard at all. And higher frequency sounds, such as your sister speaking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for individuals with this kind of hearing loss.

We can use the hearing test to individualize hearing solutions

When we can understand which frequencies you cannot hear well or at all, we can program a hearing aid to meet each ear’s distinct hearing profile. Contemporary hearing aids have the ability to know exactly what frequencies enter the microphone. The hearing aid can be programmed to boost whatever frequency you’re having trouble hearing. Or it can use its frequency compression feature to adjust the frequency to one you can better hear. Additionally, they can enhance your ability to process background noise.

Modern hearing aids are programmed to address your particular hearing needs instead of just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother listening experience.

If you believe you might be dealing with 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.