Hearing Test Audiograms and How to Read Them

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 seem at first. 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 certain letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters just fine at any volume. It will become more evident why you have inconsistencies with your hearing when you figure out how to read your hearing test. Because merely turning up the volume isn’t enough.

When I get my audiogram, how do I decipher it?

An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals employ to determine how you hear. It would be wonderful if it looked as basic as a scale from one to ten, but sadly, that isn’t the situation.

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

Deciphering the volume section of your hearing test

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 needs to be for you to be able to hear it.

If you’re unable to hear any sound until it reaches around 30 dB then you’re dealing with mild hearing loss which is a loss of volume between 26 and 45 dB. You’re dealing with moderate hearing loss if your hearing begins at 45-65 dB. If you start hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it means 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.

Reading frequency on a hearing test

You hear other things besides volume too. You hear sound at different frequencies, commonly called pitches in music. Frequencies help you differentiate between types of sounds, including the letters of the alphabet.

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

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

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 someone talking at an elevated volume). 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

So in the real world, what might the outcome of this test mean for you? Here are a few sounds that would be more difficult to hear if you have the very common form of high frequency hearing loss:

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

Certain particular frequencies might be more challenging for a person with high frequency hearing loss to hear, even in the higher frequency range.

Inside of your inner ear there are very small hair-like nerve cells that shake with sounds. You lose the ability to hear in any 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.

This kind of hearing loss can make some communications with loved ones very frustrating. You may have trouble only hearing certain frequencies, but your family members might think they need to yell to be heard at all. On top of that, those with this type of hearing impairment find background noise overshadows louder, higher-frequency sounds like your sister speaking to you in a restaurant.

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

We will be able to custom tune a hearing aid for your particular hearing requirements once we’re able to understand which frequencies you’re having trouble hearing. In modern digital hearing aids, if a frequency goes into the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid immediately knows if you can hear that frequency. It can then raise the volume on that frequency so you’re able to hear it. Or it can change the frequency through frequency compression to a different frequency you can hear. They also have functions that can make processing background sound easier.

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

Make an appointment for a hearing exam right away if you think you may be suffering from 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.

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