How to Understand 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 might at first seem. If you’re dealing with hearing loss, you can most likely hear certain things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. You might confuse certain letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters just fine at whatever volume. It will become more evident why you notice inconsistencies with your hearing when you learn how to interpret your hearing test. Because simply turning up the volume isn’t enough.

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

Hearing professionals will be able to determine the state of your hearing by utilizing this type of hearing test. It would be wonderful if it looked as simple as a scale from one to ten, but unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

Rather, it’s printed on a graph, which is why many find it confusing. But if you are aware of what you’re looking at, you too can understand the results of your audiogram.

Deciphering the volume section of your hearing test

The volume in Decibels is outlined on the left side of the chart (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 is around 30 dB then you’re dealing with mild hearing loss which is a loss of volume between 26 and 45 dB. You have 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 can’t 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.

Reading frequency on a audiogram

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.

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

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

So, for instance, if you’re dealing with 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 about the volume of an elevated, but not yelling, voice). The graph will plot the volumes that the various frequencies will need to reach before you can hear them.

Why measuring both volume and frequency is so important

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

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

Some specific frequencies might be more challenging for somebody with high frequency hearing loss to hear, even within the higher frequency range.

Within 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 totally lose your ability to hear any frequencies that have lost all of the related hair cells.

Communicating with others can become really aggravating if you’re dealing with this kind of hearing loss. Your family members may think they need to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have trouble hearing certain frequencies. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister talking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for people with this type of hearing loss.

Hearing solutions can be individualized by a hearing professional by using a hearing test

When we are able to recognize which frequencies you cannot hear well or at all, we can program a hearing aid to meet each ear’s unique hearing profile. Contemporary hearing aids have the ability to know exactly what frequencies enter the microphone. It can then raise the volume on that frequency so you can hear it. 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 less difficult.

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

Make an appointment for a hearing exam right away 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.


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