How to Understand 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. You might confuse particular letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters just fine at whatever volume. It will become more evident why you notice inconsistencies with your hearing when you learn how to read your hearing test. That’s because there’s more to hearing than simply cranking up the volume.

How do I understand the results of my audiogram?

Hearing professionals will be able to get a read on the condition of your hearing by using this type of hearing test. It won’t look as basic as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be fantastic if it did!)

Rather, it’s printed on a graph, which is why many people find it confusing. But you too can understand a hearing test if you’re aware of what you’re looking at.

Decoding the volume section of your audiogram

The volume in Decibels is indexed 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.

A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB indicates mild hearing loss. If hearing begins at 45-65 dB then you have moderate hearing loss. Hearing loss is severe if your hearing starts 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 section of your hearing test

Volume isn’t the only thing you hear. You hear sound at different frequencies, commonly called pitches in music. Different types of sounds, including letters of the alphabet, are distinguished by frequency or pitch.

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

We will test how well you’re able to hear frequencies in between and can then diagram them on the chart.

So, for example, if you’re dealing with high-frequency hearing loss, in order for you to hear a high-frequency sound it might have to be at least 60 dB (which is about the volume of a raised, but not yelling, voice). The chart will plot the volumes that the different frequencies will have to reach before you can hear them.

Why tracking both volume and frequency is so important

Now that you understand how to interpret your audiogram, let’s look at what those results may mean for you in real life. High-frequency hearing loss, which is a quite common type of loss would make it more difficult to hear or understand:

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

Certain specific frequencies may be harder for someone who has high frequency hearing loss to hear, even in the higher frequency range.

Within the inner ear little stereocilia (hair-like cells) shake in response to sound waves. If the cells that pick up a certain frequency become damaged and ultimately 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 completely lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.

Communicating with other people can become very frustrating if you’re suffering from this kind of hearing loss. Your family members might think they need to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have trouble hearing certain frequencies. And higher frequency sounds, such as your sister speaking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for individuals with this type of hearing loss.

We can utilize the hearing test to individualize hearing solutions

We will be able to custom tune a hearing aid for your specific hearing needs once we’re able to understand which frequencies you’re having trouble hearing. Contemporary hearing aids have the ability to know exactly what frequencies enter the microphone. It can then raise the volume on that frequency so you can hear it. Or it can make use of its frequency compression feature to adjust the frequency to one you can hear better. Additionally, they can enhance your ability to process background noise.

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

Make an appointment for a hearing exam today 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.