Hearing Test Audiograms and How to Read Them

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

It might seem, initially, like measuring hearing loss would be simple. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can probably 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. It will become more obvious why you have inconsistencies with your hearing when you figure out how to interpret your hearing test. Because merely turning up the volume isn’t enough.

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

Hearing professionals will be able to determine the condition of your hearing by utilizing this type of hearing test. It won’t look as simple as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it did!)

Instead, it’s written on a graph, and that’s why many find it challenging. But if you understand what you’re looking at, you too can interpret the results of your audiogram.

Looking at volume on an 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 hear it.

A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB points to mild hearing loss. You’re dealing with moderate hearing loss if your hearing starts at 45-65 dB. 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 gets up to 90 dB or more, which is louder than a lawnmower.

The frequency portion of your hearing test

Volume’s not the only thing you hear. You can also hear a range of frequencies or pitches of sound. Frequencies help you differentiate between types of sounds, and this includes the letters of the alphabet.

Frequencies that 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 graph.

This test will let us define how well you can hear within a range of frequencies.

So, for illustration, 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 about 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 essential to measure both frequency and volume?

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

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

While someone who has high-frequency hearing loss has more trouble with high-frequency sounds, certain frequencies might seem easier to hear than others.

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

Communicating with others can become really frustrating if you’re dealing with this type of hearing loss. Your family members might think they have to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have trouble hearing particular frequencies. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister talking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for people with this type of hearing loss.

We can use the hearing test to personalize hearing solutions

We will be able to custom program a hearing aid for your particular hearing needs once we’re able to understand which frequencies you’re not able to hear. Contemporary hearing aids have the ability to know precisely what frequencies go into the microphone. The hearing aid can be programmed to boost whatever frequency you’re having trouble hearing. Or it can alter the frequency by using frequency compression to another frequency you can hear. In addition, they can enhance your ability to process background noise.

Modern hearing aids are programmed to address your particular hearing requirements rather than just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother hearing experience.

Make an appointment for a hearing test 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.