How to Interpret Your Hearing Test or Audiogram

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 dealing with hearing loss, you can most likely hear certain things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. Most letters might sound clear at any volume but others, such as “s” and “b” could get lost. When you figure out how to understand your hearing test it becomes more obvious why your hearing seems “inconsistent”. Because merely turning up the volume isn’t enough.

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

Hearing professionals will be able to get a read on the condition of your hearing by utilizing this type of hearing test. It would be wonderful if it looked as simple as a scale from one to ten, but sadly, that isn’t the situation.

Rather, it’s written on a graph, which is why many find it challenging. But if you understand what you’re looking at, you too can understand the results of your audiogram.

Looking at volume on an audiogram

The volume in Decibels is detailed on the left side of the graph (from 0 dB to around 120 dB). The higher the number, the louder the sound must 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. If you start hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it indicates you have severe hearing loss. 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 have profound hearing loss.

Reading frequency on a hearing test

You hear other things besides volume also. You can also hear different frequencies or pitches of sound. Frequencies allow you to differentiate between types of sounds, and this includes 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 normally listed along the lower section of the graph.

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

So, for illustration, 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 around the volume of a raised, but not yelling, voice). The volume that the sound needs to reach for you to hear each frequency varies and will be plotted on the graph.

Is it essential to measure both frequency and volume?

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

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

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

Inside of the inner ear tiny stereocilia (hair-like cells) move in response to sound waves. You lose the ability to hear in any frequencies which the corresponding hair cells that detect those frequencies have become damaged and died. You will completely lose your ability to hear any frequencies that have lost all of the corresponding hair cells.

Interacting with other people can become really frustrating if you’re suffering from this kind of hearing loss. You may have trouble only hearing certain frequencies, but your family members might think they need to yell to be heard at all. In addition to that, those who have this kind of hearing loss find background noise overpowers louder, higher-frequency sounds like your sister speaking to you in a restaurant.

We can use 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 understand which frequencies you’re having trouble hearing. In modern digital hearing aids, if a frequency enters the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid instantly knows whether you’re able to hear that frequency. It can then raise the volume on that frequency so you’re able to hear it. Or it can make use of its frequency compression feature to change the frequency to one you can better hear. Additionally, they can improve your ability to process background noise.

Modern hearing aids are programmed to address your particular hearing requirements instead of just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother hearing experience.

Make an appointment for a hearing test right away if you think you might 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.