How to Read Your Hearing Test or Audiogram

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

It might seem, initially, like measuring hearing loss would be simple. You can most likely 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. It will become more obvious 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.

How do I understand the results of my audiogram?

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

Rather, it’s printed on a graph, which is why many individuals find it perplexing. But if you know what you’re looking at, you too can interpret the results of your audiogram.

Decoding the volume portion of your hearing test

The volume in Decibels is detailed on the left side of the chart (from 0 dB to about 120 dB). This number will determine how loud a sound needs to be for you to be able to hear 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 signifies mild hearing loss. 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. Profound hearing loss means that you can’t hear until the volume gets up to 90 dB or more, which is louder than a lawnmower.

The frequency portion of your audiogram

You hear other things besides volume also. You hear sound at different frequencies, commonly called pitches in music. Frequencies help you differentiate between types of sounds, including the letters of the alphabet.

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

We will check how well you’re able to hear frequencies in between and can then diagram them on the chart.

So, for illustration, 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 around the volume of a raised, but not yelling, voice). The chart will plot the volumes that the different frequencies will have to reach before you can hear them.

Is it essential to measure both frequency and volume?

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

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

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

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

This kind of hearing loss can make some communications with friends and family really aggravating. You may have difficulty only hearing specific frequencies, but your family members may think they have to yell in order for you to hear them at all. And higher frequency sounds, like your sister speaking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for people who have this kind of hearing loss.

We can use the hearing test to personalize hearing solutions

When we are able to understand which frequencies you can’t hear well or at all, we can program a hearing aid to meet each ear’s unique hearing profile. In modern digital hearing aids, if a frequency enters the hearing aid’s microphone, the hearing aid instantly knows if you can hear that frequency. It can then make that frequency louder 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 functions that can make processing background sound simpler.

Modern hearing aids are programmed to target your specific hearing needs instead of just turning up the volume on all frequencies, which creates a smoother listening experience.

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

The content of this blog is the intellectual property of and is reprinted here with permission. The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive a hearing aid consultation, call today to schedule an appointment.