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. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can probably hear some things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. Most letters may sound clear at any volume but others, like “s” and “b” could get lost. When you learn how to read your hearing test it becomes more obvious why your hearing is “inconsistent”. Because simply turning up the volume isn’t enough.

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

An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals utilize to determine how you hear. It won’t look as simple as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it did!)

Instead, it’s printed on a graph, and that’s why many individuals find it confusing. But you too can understand a hearing test if you’re aware of what you’re looking at.

Reading volume on an audiogram

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

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 sound between 26 and 45 dB. You’re dealing with moderate hearing loss if your hearing begins at 45-65 dB. Hearing loss is severe if your hearing begins at 66-85 dB. If you can’t 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 too. You hear sound at varied 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 lower section of the chart, you’ll usually see 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 chart.

So if you have hearing loss in the higher wavelengths, you might need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as high as 60 dB (the volume of someone talking at an elevated volume). The volume that the sound needs to reach for you to hear each frequency varies and will be plotted on the graph.

Is it important to track both frequency and volume?

So in real life, what might the results of this test mean for you? Here are a few sounds that would be more difficult to hear if you have the very prevalent form of high frequency hearing loss:

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

While a person with high-frequency hearing loss has more trouble with high-frequency sounds, some frequencies may seem easier to hear than others.

Inside your inner ear there are very small hair-like nerve cells that shake with sounds. 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 pick up that frequency are damaged, then you completely lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.

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

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

We will be able to custom program a hearing aid for your specific hearing requirements once we’re able to understand which frequencies you’re having trouble hearing. Modern hearing aids have the ability to know precisely what frequencies go into the microphone. The hearing aid can be programmed to boost whatever frequency you’re having trouble 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 fine tuned to target your particular hearing needs rather than just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother listening experience.

Make an appointment for a hearing test today if you think you may 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.

Stop struggling to hear conversations. Come see us today. Call or Text