Hearing Test Audiograms and How to Understand Them

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

Determining hearing loss is more complex than it may seem at first. You can most likely hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. Most letters might sound clear at any volume 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”. That’s because there’s more to hearing than just turning up the volume.

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

An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals use to determine how you hear. It would be terrific if it looked as simple as a scale from one to ten, but unfortunately, that isn’t the situation.

Many people find the graph format confusing at first. But you too can interpret a hearing test if you know what you’re looking at.

Examining volume on a hearing test

The volume in Decibels is listed on the left side of the chart (from 0 dB to about 120 dB). This number will specify 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’re unable to hear any sound until it is around 30 dB then you’re dealing with mild hearing loss which is a loss of volume between 26 and 45 dB. If hearing begins at 45-65 dB then you have moderate hearing loss. If you start hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it means you have severe hearing loss. Profound hearing loss means that you’re unable to hear until the volume reaches 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 can also hear different frequencies or pitches of sound. Different types of sounds, including letters of the alphabet, are distinguished by frequency or pitch.

Frequencies that a human ear can hear, from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are typically listed on the lower section of the chart.

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

So if you’re dealing with hearing loss in the higher wavelengths, you may need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as loud as 60 dB (the volume of somebody talking at a raised volume). The chart will plot the volumes that the different frequencies will have to reach before you can hear them.

Is it significant to measure both frequency and volume?

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

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

Some particular frequencies might be harder for a person who has 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 along with sounds. If the cells that pick up a certain frequency become damaged and ultimately 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 corresponding hair cells.

This kind of hearing loss can make some communications with loved ones extremely frustrating. Your family members might think they have to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have difficulty hearing certain wavelengths. In addition, those who have this type of hearing loss find background sound overshadows louder, higher-frequency sounds like your sister talking to you in a restaurant.

We can use the hearing test to personalize hearing solutions

When we can 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. In contemporary digital hearing aids, if a frequency goes into the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid immediately knows whether you’re able to hear that frequency. The hearing aid can be programmed to boost whatever frequency you’re having difficulty hearing. Or it can change the frequency by using frequency compression to another frequency you can hear. Additionally, they can enhance your ability to process background noise.

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