How to Understand Your Hearing Test or Audiogram

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

Measuring hearing loss is more technical than it might at first seem. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can probably hear some things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. You may confuse particular letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters just fine at any volume. It will become more obvious why you notice inconsistencies with your hearing when you learn how to interpret your hearing test. That’s because there’s more to hearing than just cranking up the volume.

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

An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals employ to determine how you hear. It would be great if it looked as simple as a scale from one to ten, but regrettably, that’s not the case.

Instead, it’s written on a graph, which is why many individuals find it challenging. But you too can understand a hearing test if you know what you’re looking at.

Looking at volume on an audiogram

The volume in Decibels is listed 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 hear it.

A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB points to mild hearing loss. If hearing starts at 45-65 dB then you’re dealing with moderate hearing loss. Hearing loss is severe if your hearing starts at 66-85 dB. If you are unable to 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.

The frequency portion of your hearing test

Volume isn’t 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 differentiated by frequency or pitch.

On the bottom of the graph, you’ll typically find frequencies that a human ear can hear, 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’re able to hear frequencies in between and can then plot them on the graph.

So if you’re dealing with hearing loss in the higher frequencies, you may need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as high as 60 dB (the volume of someone talking at a raised volume). The volume that the sound needs to reach for you to hear specific frequencies varies and will be plotted on the chart.

Is it important to track both frequency and volume?

So in real life, what might the outcome of this test mean for you? Here are some sounds that would be tougher to hear if you have the very common form of high frequency hearing loss:

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

Certain specific frequencies may be more difficult for a person with high frequency hearing loss to hear, even in the higher frequency range.

Inside your inner ear you have tiny hair-like nerve cells that vibrate along with sounds. You lose the ability to hear in any frequencies which the corresponding hair cells that detect those frequencies have become damaged and have died. You will entirely lose your ability to hear any frequencies that have lost all of the related hair cells.

Interacting with others can become very frustrating if you’re dealing with this type of hearing loss. Your family members may think they need to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have difficulty hearing particular wavelengths. In addition, those with this kind of hearing loss find background sound overshadows louder, higher-frequency sounds such as your sister talking to you in a restaurant.

We can use the hearing test to personalize 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 not able to hear. In contemporary digital hearing aids, if a frequency enters the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid immediately knows whether you can hear that frequency. It can then raise the volume on that frequency so you can hear it. Or it can use its frequency compression feature to change the frequency to one you can better hear. They also have features that can make processing background sound less difficult.

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

If you think you may be dealing with hearing loss, call us and 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.