How to Read 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 seem at first. You can most likely hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. You might confuse particular letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters perfectly fine at whatever volume. It will become more obvious why you notice inconsistencies with your hearing when you learn how to read 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 utilize to determine how you hear. It won’t look as basic 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 perplexing. 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

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

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 start 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 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 also. You hear sound at different frequencies, commonly called pitches in music. Frequencies allow you to differentiate between types of sounds, and this includes the letters of the alphabet.

On the bottom of the graph, you’ll generally find frequencies that a human ear can hear, starting from a low frequency of 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to a high frequency of 8000 (higher than a cricket)

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

So if you have hearing loss in the higher frequencies, you might need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as high as 60 dB (the volume of somebody talking at an elevated volume). The chart will plot the volumes that the different frequencies will need to reach before you can hear them.

Is it significant to track both frequency and volume?

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

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

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

Inside of your inner ear there are very small hair-like nerve cells that vibrate 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. You will entirely lose your ability to hear any frequencies that have lost all of the related hair cells.

This type of hearing loss can make some communications with friends and family really frustrating. You might have difficulty only hearing some frequencies, but your family members may assume they have to yell in order for you to hear them at all. In addition to that, those with this type of hearing impairment find background sound overshadows louder, higher-frequency sounds like your sister speaking to you in a restaurant.

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

We will be able to custom tune a hearing aid for your specific hearing requirements once we’re able to comprehend which frequencies you’re having trouble hearing. In contemporary digital hearing aids, if a frequency enters the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid automatically knows whether you can hear that frequency. The hearing aid can be fine tuned to boost whatever frequency you’re having difficulty hearing. Or it can alter the frequency by using frequency compression to a different frequency that you can hear. In addition, they can enhance your ability to process background noise.

Modern hearing aids are fine tuned to target your specific hearing requirements instead of just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother listening experience.

Schedule an appointment for a hearing exam today if you think you may be suffering from hearing loss. We can help.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive a personalized free hearing test and hearing loss consultation, call today to set up an appointment.

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