How to Interpret Your Hearing Test or Audiogram

Hearing aids and an otoscope placed on an audiologists desk with an audiogram hearing test chart

Determining hearing loss is more complex than it might seem at first. You can probably hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. Most letters may sound clear at any volume but others, such as “s” and “b” may get lost. 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.

How do I understand the results of my audiogram?

Hearing professionals will be able to determine the state of your hearing by utilizing this type of hearing test. It won’t look as straightforward as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it did!)

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

Interpreting the volume section of your hearing test

The volume in Decibels is detailed on the left side of the graph (from 0 dB to around 120 dB). The higher the number, the louder the sound must be for you to hear it.

If you’re unable to hear any sound until it reaches around 30 dB then you have mild hearing loss which is a loss of volume between 26 and 45 dB. 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. 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 portion of your hearing test

Volume isn’t the only thing you hear. You can also hear a range of frequencies or pitches of sound. Frequencies help you distinguish between types of sounds, including the letters of the alphabet.

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

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

So, for instance, if you have high-frequency hearing loss, in order for you to hear a high-frequency sound it might have to be at least 60 dB (which is around the volume of a raised, but not yelling, voice). The volume that the sound must reach for you to hear specific frequencies varies and will be plotted on the chart.

Why tracking both volume and frequency is so essential

Now that you understand how to interpret your hearing test, let’s look at what those results might mean for you in real life. High-frequency hearing loss, which is a quite common type of loss would make it harder to hear or comprehend:

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

Some particular frequencies might be harder for someone who has high frequency hearing loss to hear, even in the higher frequency range.

Inside your inner ear there are tiny hair-like nerve cells that move along with sounds. You lose the ability to hear in any 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. You may have difficulty only hearing some frequencies, but your family members may think they need to yell in order for you to hear them at all. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister talking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for people who have this type of hearing loss.

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

When we are able to understand which frequencies you don’t hear well or at all, we can program a hearing aid to meet each ear’s distinct hearing profile. In contemporary digital hearing aids, if a frequency goes into the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid immediately knows whether you can hear that frequency. It can then raise the volume on that frequency so you’re able to hear it. Or it can make use of its frequency compression feature to alter the frequency to one you can better hear. They also have features that can make processing background sound easier.

This delivers a smoother more natural hearing experience for the hearing aid wearer because rather than just making everything louder, it’s meeting your unique hearing needs.

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.