Hearing Test Audiograms and How to Interpret 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 might at first seem. You can probably hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. You might confuse certain 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 interpret your hearing test. It’s because there’s more to hearing than just cranking up the volume.

How do I interpret the results of my audiogram?

Hearing professionals will be able to determine the state of your hearing by utilizing this type of hearing test. It won’t look as basic as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be great if it did!)

Many people find the graph format complicated at first. But if you understand what you’re looking at, you too can interpret the results of your audiogram.

Looking at volume on a hearing test

The volume in Decibels is outlined 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 points to mild hearing loss. You have moderate hearing loss if your hearing begins at 45-65 dB. If you begin hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it indicates you’re dealing with severe hearing loss. 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.

Examining frequency on a audiogram

Volume isn’t the only thing you hear. You hear sound at different frequencies, commonly called pitches in music. Frequencies help you differentiate between types of sounds, including the letters of the alphabet.

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

This test will allow us to determine how well you can hear within a range of frequencies.

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 must reach for you to hear specific frequencies varies and will be plotted on the graph.

Is it significant to track both frequency and volume?

Now that you know how to interpret your audiogram, let’s look at what those results may mean for you in the real world. Here are some sounds that would be tougher to hear if you have the very common form of high frequency hearing loss:

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

While someone with high-frequency hearing loss has more trouble with high-frequency sounds, certain frequencies might seem easier to hear than others.

Within the inner ear little stereocilia (hair-like cells) vibrate in response to sound waves. You lose the ability to hear in whatever frequencies which the corresponding hair cells that detect those frequencies have become damaged and died. If all of the cells that detect that frequency are damaged, then you totally lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.

This kind of hearing loss can make some interactions with loved ones really aggravating. Your family members could think they have to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have difficulty hearing particular wavelengths. And higher frequency sounds, such as your sister talking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for individuals with this type of hearing loss.

We can use 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 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 immediately knows if you can hear that frequency. The hearing aid can be programmed to boost whatever frequency you’re having trouble hearing. Or it can make use of its frequency compression feature to alter the frequency to one you can better hear. They also have functions that can make processing background sound easier.

This produces a smoother more natural hearing experience for the hearing aid wearer because rather than just making everything louder, it’s meeting your personal hearing needs.

If you believe you might be dealing with hearing loss, call us and 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 personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.


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