Hearing Test Audiograms and How to Understand Them

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

Determining hearing loss is more technical than it might at first seem. You can most likely 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” may get lost. When you figure out how to interpret your hearing test it becomes clearer why your hearing seems “inconsistent”. It’s because there’s more to hearing than simply cranking up the volume.

How do I understand the results of my audiogram?

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

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

Examining volume on a hearing test

Along the left side of the graph 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.

If you can’t hear any sound until it is about 30 dB then you’re dealing with mild hearing loss which is a loss of sound between 26 and 45 dB. If hearing begins at 45-65 dB then you’re dealing with moderate hearing loss. Hearing loss is severe if your hearing starts at 66-85 dB. Profound hearing loss means that you’re unable to hear until the volume reaches 90 dB or more, which is louder than a lawnmower.

Examining frequency on a audiogram

Volume’s not the only thing you hear. You hear sound at different frequencies, commonly called pitches in music. Frequencies help you distinguish between types of sounds, including the letters of the alphabet.

Frequencies that a human ear can hear, ranging from 125 (lower than a bullfrog) to 8000 (higher than a cricket), are usually listed on the bottom of the chart.

This test will allow us to figure out how well you can hear within a span of frequencies.

So if you have 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 an elevated volume). The chart will plot the volumes that the various frequencies will have to reach before you’re able to hear them.

Why tracking both volume and frequency is so significant

So in the real world, what could the results of this test mean for you? High-frequency hearing loss, which is a quite common form of loss would make it harder to hear or understand:

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

Certain specific frequencies might be more challenging for someone with high frequency hearing loss to hear, even in the higher frequency range.

Inside of the inner ear little stereocilia (hair-like cells) move in response to sound waves. You lose the ability to hear in any frequencies which the corresponding hair cells that pick up those frequencies have become damaged and died. If all of the cells that pick up that frequency are damaged, then you entirely lose your ability to hear that frequency regardless of volume.

This kind of hearing loss can make some interactions with loved ones extremely aggravating. You may have difficulty only hearing specific frequencies, but your family members might think they have to yell in order for you to hear them at all. And higher frequency sounds, such as your sister speaking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for people who have this type of hearing loss.

We can use the hearing test to personalize hearing solutions

We will be able to custom tune a hearing aid for your specific hearing requirements once we’re able to understand which frequencies you’re having trouble hearing. In modern digital hearing aids, if a frequency enters the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid immediately knows if you can hear that frequency. The hearing aid can be fine tuned to boost whatever frequency you’re having difficulty hearing. Or it can utilize its frequency compression feature to change the frequency to one you can better hear. Additionally, they can enhance your ability to process background noise.

This delivers a smoother more normal hearing experience for the hearing aid wearer because instead of just making everything louder, it’s meeting your personal 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.


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