Hearing Test Audiograms and How to Interpret Them

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

It might seem, at first, like measuring hearing loss would be simple. 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” may get lost. When you learn how to understand your hearing test it becomes clearer why your hearing seems “inconsistent”. It’s because there’s more to hearing than just turning up the volume.

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 wonderful if it looked as simple as a scale from one to ten, but sadly, that isn’t the situation.

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

Reading volume on an audiogram

The volume in Decibels is outlined on the left side of the chart (from 0 dB to about 120 dB). This number will determine how loud a sound has 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 reaches around 30 dB then you’re dealing with 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. Hearing loss is severe if your hearing begins at 66-85 dB. Profound hearing loss means that you can’t hear until the volume gets up to 90 dB or more, which is louder than a lawnmower.

The frequency section of your audiogram

Volume’s not the only thing you hear. You hear sound at varied frequencies, commonly known as pitches in music. Frequencies allow you to differentiate between types of sounds, including 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 usually listed on the lower section of the graph.

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

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 around the volume of a raised, but not yelling, voice). The volume that the sound needs to reach for you to hear specific frequencies varies and will be plotted on the chart.

Why measuring both volume and frequency is so significant

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

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

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

Inside of the inner ear tiny stereocilia (hair-like cells) move in response to sound waves. If the cells that pick up a specific frequency become damaged and eventually die, you will lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. If all of the cells that detect that frequency are damaged, then you entirely lose your ability to hear that frequency even at higher volumes.

This type of hearing loss can make some interactions with loved ones extremely frustrating. Your family members may think they need to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have trouble hearing certain wavelengths. On top of that, those with this kind of hearing impairment find background noise overshadows louder, higher-frequency sounds like your sister talking to you in a restaurant.

We can utilize the hearing test to individualize hearing solutions

We will be able to custom program a hearing aid for your particular hearing requirements once we’re able to comprehend 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 whether you can hear that frequency. It can then raise the volume on that frequency so you can hear it. Or it can change the frequency by using frequency compression to a different frequency you can hear. In addition, they can enhance your ability to process background noise.

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

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.

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