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 may seem, at first, like measuring hearing loss would be simple. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can most likely hear some things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. Most letters may sound clear at any volume but others, such as “s” and “b” could get lost. It will become more apparent why you have inconsistencies with your hearing when you figure out how to read your hearing test. Because simply turning up the volume isn’t enough.

How do I interpret the results of my audiogram?

Hearing professionals will be able to get a read on the condition of your hearing by making use of this type of hearing test. It won’t look as straightforward as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be fantastic if it did!)

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

Examining volume on an audiogram

The volume in Decibels is indexed on the left side of the chart (from 0 dB to around 120 dB). This number will determine how loud a sound needs to be for you to be able to hear it. Higher numbers mean that in order for you to hear it, you will require louder sound.

A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB signifies mild hearing loss. You’re dealing with moderate hearing loss if your hearing starts at 45-65 dB. Hearing loss is severe if your hearing begins at 66-85 dB. Profound hearing loss means that you’re unable to hear until the volume reaches 90 dB or more, which is louder than a lawnmower.

Reading frequency on a hearing test

You hear other things besides volume too. You can also hear a range of frequencies or pitches of sound. Frequencies help you 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 lower section of the chart.

This test will let us figure out how well you can hear within a range of frequencies.

So if you’re dealing with hearing loss in the higher wavelengths, you may need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as loud as 60 dB (the volume of someone talking at an elevated volume). The chart will plot the volumes that the various frequencies will have to reach before you’re able to hear them.

Why measuring both volume and frequency is so important

Now that you know how to read your audiogram, let’s look at what those results may mean for you in real life. Here are a few sounds that would be harder to hear if you have the very prevalent form of high frequency hearing loss:

  • Birds
  • Music
  • Higher pitched voices like women and children tend to have
  • Beeps, dings, and timers
  • “F”, “H”, “S”
  • Whispers, even if hearing volume is good

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

Inside of your inner ear there are tiny hair-like nerve cells that shake 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. You will completely lose your ability to hear any frequencies that have lost all of the corresponding hair cells.

Interacting with others can become really frustrating if you’re dealing with this kind of hearing loss. Your family members might think they need to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have difficulty hearing certain wavelengths. On top of that, those who have this kind of hearing impairment find background sound overshadows louder, higher-frequency sounds such as your sister talking to you in a restaurant.

Hearing solutions can be personalized by a hearing professional by utilizing a hearing test

When we can recognize which frequencies you don’t hear well or at all, we can program a hearing aid to meet each ear’s unique hearing profile. In modern digital hearing aids, if a frequency enters the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid immediately knows if you’re able to hear that frequency. It can then raise the volume on that frequency so you can hear it. Or it can change the frequency through frequency compression to another frequency you can hear. In addition, they can improve your ability to process background noise.

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

If you think you may 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.