Hearing Test Audiograms and How to Read 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. You can most likely hear certain things clearly at lower volumes 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 have inconsistencies with your hearing when you figure out how to interpret your hearing test. It’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 use to ascertain how you hear. It would be wonderful if it looked as basic as a scale from one to ten, but sadly, that isn’t the situation.

Many people find the graph format confusing at first. But you too can interpret a hearing test if you’re aware of what you’re looking at.

Reading volume on a hearing test

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

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. 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 reaches 90 dB or more, which is louder than a lawnmower.

The frequency portion of your audiogram

Volume’s not the only thing you hear. You can also hear a range of frequencies or pitches of sound. Different types of sounds, including letters of the alphabet, are distinguished by frequency or pitch.

On the bottom of the chart, you’ll typically see frequencies that a human ear can detect, going from a low frequency of 125 (deeper 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 chart.

So if you’re dealing with hearing loss in the higher wavelengths, you might need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as high as 60 dB (the volume of somebody talking at a raised volume). The graph will plot the volumes that the various frequencies will have to reach before you’re able to hear them.

Is it important to measure both frequency and volume?

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

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

Some specific frequencies may be more difficult for someone who has high frequency hearing loss to hear, even in the higher frequency range.

Inside of your inner ear you have very small hair-like nerve cells that vibrate along with sounds. If the cells that detect a specific frequency become damaged and eventually die, you will lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. If all of the cells that detect that frequency are damaged, then you totally lose your ability to hear that frequency even at higher volumes.

This kind of hearing loss can make some communications with loved ones very frustrating. Your family members may think they have to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have difficulty hearing particular frequencies. On top of that, those with this type of hearing impairment find background noise overpowers louder, higher-frequency sounds like your sister talking to you in a restaurant.

We can utilize the hearing test to individualize hearing solutions

We will be able to custom program a hearing aid for your particular hearing needs once we’re able to understand which frequencies you’re not able to hear. In contemporary digital hearing aids, if a frequency goes into the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid automatically knows if you’re able to hear that frequency. The hearing aid can be programmed to boost whatever frequency you’re having trouble hearing. Or it can utilize its frequency compression feature to alter the frequency to one you can hear better. They also have features that can make processing background sound easier.

Modern hearing aids are fine tuned to address your specific hearing requirements rather than just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother hearing 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.

Questions? Talk To Us.

    Dr. Laura Padham, Audiologist

    Ocean Gate, NJ

    143 W Barnegat Avenue
    Ocean Gate, NJ 08740

    Mobile Services in:Ocean, Monmouth, Middlesex, Somerset, Union, Essex, Hudson, Bergen, Passaic, Atlantic, Mercer, and Burlington Counties.

    Call or Text: 848-266-5119

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