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 may seem, at first, like measuring hearing loss would be easy. You can probably hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. You might confuse certain letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters perfectly fine at any volume. When you learn how to interpret your hearing test it becomes clearer why your hearing seems “inconsistent”. Because merely turning up the volume isn’t enough.

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

An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals utilize to ascertain how you hear. It would be wonderful if it looked as basic as a scale from one to ten, but sadly, that’s not the case.

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

Decoding the volume section of your audiogram

Along the left side of the chart is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to about 120 (thunder). 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 indicates mild hearing loss. If hearing begins 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. 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 have profound hearing loss.

The frequency section of your hearing test

Volume isn’t the only thing you hear. You hear sound at varied frequencies, commonly known as pitches in music. Frequencies help you differentiate between types of sounds, and this includes the letters of the alphabet.

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

We will test how well you’re able to hear frequencies in between and can then diagram them on the chart.

So if you have hearing loss in the higher frequencies, you might need the volume of high frequency sounds to be as loud as 60 dB (the volume of someone talking at a raised volume). The volume that the sound must reach for you to hear specific frequencies varies and will be plotted on the graph.

Why tracking both volume and frequency is so important

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

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

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

Inside of your inner ear there are very small hair-like nerve cells that vibrate along with sounds. You lose the ability to hear in whatever 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.

This kind of hearing loss can make some communications with friends and family really aggravating. Your family members could think they have to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have difficulty hearing particular frequencies. And higher frequency sounds, such as your sister talking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for individuals who have this type of hearing loss.

We can use the hearing test to individualize hearing solutions

We will be able to custom program a hearing aid for your specific hearing needs once we’re able to understand which frequencies you’re not able to hear. In modern digital hearing aids, if a frequency enters the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid automatically knows if you can hear that frequency. It can then make that frequency louder so you can hear it. Or it can alter the frequency through frequency compression to another frequency that you can hear. Additionally, they can enhance your ability to process background noise.

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

Schedule an appointment for a hearing exam today 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.