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

It might seem, at first, like measuring hearing loss would be easy. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you can probably hear some things clearly at a lower volume, but not others. Most letters might sound clear at any volume but others, such as “s” and “b” could get lost. When you figure out how to read your hearing test it becomes clearer why your hearing is “inconsistent”. It’s because there’s more to hearing than simply cranking up the volume.

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

Hearing professionals will be able to get a read on the state of your hearing by using this type of hearing test. It won’t look as basic as a scale from one to ten. (Wouldn’t it be great if it did!)

Rather, it’s printed on a graph, and that’s why many people find it perplexing. But if you are aware of what you’re looking at, you too can interpret the results of your audiogram.

Interpreting the volume portion of your hearing test

On 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 needs to be for you to hear it.

If you’re unable to hear any sound until it is 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 begins at 45-65 dB. 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.

Reading frequency on a hearing test

You hear other things besides volume too. You hear sound at varied frequencies, commonly known as pitches in music. Different types of sounds, including letters of the alphabet, are differentiated by frequency or pitch.

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

We will test how well you hear frequencies in between and can then plot them on the chart.

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 a raised volume). The graph will plot the volumes that the various frequencies will have to reach before you can hear them.

Is it significant to track both frequency and volume?

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

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

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

Inside of the inner ear tiny stereocilia (hair-like cells) shake in response to sound waves. If the cells that pick up a specific frequency become damaged and ultimately die, you lose your ability to hear that frequency at lower volumes. If all of the cells that pick up that frequency are damaged, then you completely lose your ability to hear that frequency even at higher volumes.

This type of hearing loss can make some interactions with friends and family very frustrating. You may have trouble only hearing specific frequencies, but your family members may assume they need to yell to be heard at all. In addition, those who have this type of hearing impairment find background noise overshadows louder, higher-frequency sounds like your sister speaking to you in a restaurant.

We can use the hearing test to personalize 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 having trouble hearing. In contemporary digital hearing aids, if a frequency enters the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid immediately knows if you’re able to hear that frequency. The hearing aid can be programmed to boost whatever frequency you’re having difficulty hearing. Or it can adjust the frequency by using frequency compression to another frequency you can hear. In addition, they can improve your ability to process background noise.

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

Make an appointment for a hearing test right away if you think you may be suffering from hearing loss. We can help.

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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.