How to Interpret 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 complex than it may seem at first. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can probably hear certain things clearly at a lower volume, 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 apparent why you notice inconsistencies with your hearing when you learn how to interpret your hearing test. 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 state of your hearing by making use of this type of hearing test. It would be terrific if it looked as basic as a scale from one to ten, but sadly, that isn’t the case.

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

Decoding the volume portion of your audiogram

The volume in Decibels is listed on the left side of the chart (from 0 dB to about 120 dB). This number will determine how loud a sound has to be for you to be capable of hearing it. Higher numbers mean that in order for you to hear it, you will need louder sound.

If you’re unable to hear any sound until it is about 30 dB then you have mild hearing loss which is a loss of sound 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 indicates you have severe hearing loss. If you are unable to hear sound until it reaches 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

Volume isn’t the only thing you hear. You can also hear different frequencies or pitches of sound. Frequencies allow you to differentiate between types of sounds, including the letters of the alphabet.

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

This test will allow us to figure out how well you can hear within a span of wavelengths.

So, for illustration, if you’re dealing with 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 needs to reach for you to hear specific frequencies varies and will be plotted on the chart.

Is it essential to measure both frequency and volume?

Now that you understand how to interpret your audiogram, let’s take a look at what those results may mean for you in the real world. High-frequency hearing loss, which is a very common type of loss would make it more difficult to hear or comprehend:

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

While a person who has high-frequency hearing loss has more difficulty with high-frequency sounds, certain frequencies might seem easier to hear than others.

Inside your inner ear you have very small hair-like nerve cells that move along with sounds. You lose the ability to hear in any frequencies which the corresponding hair cells that pick up those frequencies have become damaged and have died. If all of the cells that detect that frequency are damaged, then you completely lose your ability to hear that frequency even at higher volumes.

Communicating with others can become very aggravating if you’re dealing with this kind of hearing loss. You might have difficulty only hearing certain frequencies, but your family members might think they need to yell in order for you to hear them at all. In addition, those who have this kind of hearing loss find background sound overshadows louder, higher-frequency sounds such as your sister speaking to you in a restaurant.

We can use the hearing test to personalize hearing solutions

When we are able to recognize which frequencies you can’t hear well or at all, we can program a hearing aid to meet each ear’s unique hearing profile. Contemporary hearing aids have the ability to recognize exactly what frequencies enter the microphone. The hearing aid can be fine tuned to boost whatever frequency you’re having difficulty hearing. Or it can change the frequency by using frequency compression to a different frequency that you can hear. Additionally, they can improve 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.

If you think you might be experiencing hearing loss, contact 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.

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