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 technical than it may seem at first. You can probably hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. Most letters may sound clear at high or low volumes but others, like “s” and “b” could get lost. It will become more obvious why you have inconsistencies with your hearing when you learn how to read your hearing test. That’s because there’s more to hearing than simply cranking up the volume.

How do I interpret the results of my audiogram?

An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals use to ascertain how you hear. It would be great if it looked as simple as a scale from one to ten, but sadly, that isn’t the case.

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

Interpreting the volume section of your hearing test

Along the left side of the chart is the volume in Decibels (dB) from 0 (silent) to about 120 (thunder). This number will define how loud a sound needs 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.

A loss of volume between 26 dB and 45 dB points to 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 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 section of your hearing test

Volume’s not 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 distinguished by frequency or pitch.

Along the lower section of the graph, you’ll typically find frequencies that a human ear can detect, starting from a low frequency of 125 (deeper than a bullfrog) to a high frequency of 8000 (higher than a cricket)

This test will allow us to ascertain how well you can hear within a range of wavelengths.

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

Is it essential to track both frequency and volume?

Now that you understand how to read your hearing test, 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 tougher to hear if you have the very prevalent form of high frequency hearing loss:

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

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

Inside of the inner ear tiny stereocilia (hair-like cells) vibrate in response to sound waves. 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 entirely 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 loved ones very frustrating. Your family members could think they have to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have trouble hearing certain frequencies. On top of that, those with this type of hearing loss find background sound overpowers louder, higher-frequency sounds such as your sister speaking to you in a restaurant.

We can utilize the hearing test to personalize hearing solutions

We will be able to custom tune a hearing aid for your particular hearing requirements once we’re able to comprehend which frequencies you’re having trouble hearing. In contemporary digital hearing aids, if a frequency goes into the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid instantly knows whether you’re able to hear that frequency. It can then raise the volume on that frequency so you can hear it. Or it can utilize its frequency compression feature to change the frequency to one you can hear better. They also have features that can make processing background sound simpler.

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.

Schedule an appointment for a hearing exam right away if you think you may be suffering from 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.