Hearing Test Audiograms and How to Interpret Them

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 probably hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. The majority of letters may sound clear at high or low volumes but others, like “s” and “b” may get lost. It will become more obvious why you notice inconsistencies with your hearing when you figure out how to interpret your hearing test. Because merely turning up the volume isn’t enough.

How do I interpret the results of my audiogram?

An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals use to calculate how you hear. It would be great if it looked as basic as a scale from one to ten, but sadly, that’s not the case.

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

Looking at volume on an audiogram

Along the left side of the chart is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to around 120 (thunder). This number will define how loud a sound needs to be for you to be able to hear it. Higher numbers mean that in order for you to hear it, you will require louder sound.

If you can’t hear any sound until it is around 30 dB then you have mild hearing loss which is a loss of sound between 26 and 45 dB. You have moderate hearing loss if your hearing starts at 45-65 dB. If you begin hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it means you’re dealing with severe hearing loss. If you are unable to hear sound until it reaches 90 dB or more (louder than the volume of a running lawnmower), it means that you have profound hearing loss.

The frequency section of your audiogram

Volume’s not the only thing you hear. You hear sound at different frequencies, commonly known as pitches in music. Frequencies help you differentiate between types of sounds, and this includes the letters of the alphabet.

Along the lower section of the chart, you’ll typically find frequencies that a human ear can detect, going from a low frequency of 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to a high frequency of 8000 (higher than a cricket)

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 high as 60 dB (the volume of somebody talking at a raised volume). The chart 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?

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

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

Some specific frequencies may be harder for somebody with high frequency hearing loss to hear, even within the higher frequency range.

Inside of your inner ear there are tiny hair-like nerve cells that shake with sounds. If the cells that detect a specific frequency become damaged and eventually die, you lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. You will completely lose your ability to hear any frequencies that have lost all of the related hair cells.

Communicating with other people can become really aggravating if you’re dealing with this kind of hearing loss. You may have trouble only hearing certain frequencies, but your family members might think they need to yell to be heard at all. In addition to that, those who have this type of hearing loss find background sound overpowers louder, higher-frequency sounds such as your sister speaking to you in a restaurant.

We can use the hearing test to personalize hearing solutions

When we are able to recognize which frequencies you cannot 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 precisely what frequencies go into the microphone. It can then make that frequency louder so you’re able to hear it. Or it can utilize its frequency compression feature to adjust the frequency to one you can better hear. They also have functions that can make processing background sound less difficult.

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

Schedule an appointment for a hearing test today if you think you might 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.