How to Read Your Hearing Test or Audiogram

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

Determining hearing loss is more technical than it might seem at first. You can most likely hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. Most letters might sound clear at high or low volumes but others, such as “s” and “b” could get lost. When you learn how to interpret your hearing test it becomes more obvious why your hearing is “inconsistent”. It’s because there’s more to hearing than just cranking up the volume.

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

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 terrific if it looked as basic as a scale from one to ten, but regrettably, that isn’t the case.

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

Interpreting the volume portion of your audiogram

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

A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB indicates mild hearing loss. You have 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 gets up to 90 dB or more (louder than the volume of a running lawnmower), it means that you’re dealing with profound hearing loss.

Reading frequency on a hearing test

You hear other things besides volume too. You hear sound at varied frequencies, commonly known as pitches in music. Frequencies allow you to differentiate between types of sounds, and this includes the letters of the alphabet.

Frequencies which 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 chart.

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

So, for illustration, if you’re dealing with 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 about the volume of a raised, but not yelling, voice). The volume that the sound must reach for you to hear each frequency varies and will be plotted on the chart.

Is it important to track both frequency and volume?

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

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

While somebody who has high-frequency hearing loss has more difficulty with high-frequency sounds, some frequencies may seem easier to hear than others.

Inside of your inner ear there are very small hair-like nerve cells that shake with sounds. If the cells that pick up a specific frequency become damaged and eventually die, you lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. If all of the cells that detect that frequency are damaged, then you totally lose your ability to hear that frequency even at higher volumes.

This kind of hearing loss can make some communications with friends and family really frustrating. Your family members may think they need to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have difficulty hearing particular wavelengths. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister talking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for individuals who have this kind of hearing loss.

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

When we can understand which frequencies you don’t hear well or at all, we can fine tune 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 fine tuned to boost whatever frequency you’re having difficulty hearing. Or it can make use of its frequency compression feature to alter the frequency to one you can hear better. 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.

Schedule an appointment for a hearing exam 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.