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

Measuring hearing loss is more complex than it might at first seem. You can probably hear certain things clearly at lower volumes but not others. You may confuse particular letters like “S” or “B”, but hear other letters just fine at whatever volume. 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 just cranking up the volume.

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

An audiogram is a type of hearing test that hearing professionals use to calculate how you hear. It would be terrific if it looked as basic as a scale from one to ten, but regrettably, that isn’t the situation.

Rather, it’s written on a graph, and that’s why many people find it challenging. But if you understand what you’re looking at, you too can understand the results of your audiogram.

Examining volume on an audiogram

The volume in Decibels is listed on the left side of the chart (from 0 dB to about 120 dB). 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 around 30 dB then you’re dealing with mild hearing loss which is a loss of volume between 26 and 45 dB. If hearing begins at 45-65 dB then you have moderate hearing loss. If you begin hearing at between 66 and 85 dB then it indicates you have 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.

Examining frequency on a hearing test

Volume isn’t the only thing you hear. You hear sound at varied frequencies, commonly known as pitches in music. Frequencies allow you to distinguish between types of sounds, and this includes 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 define how well you can hear within a span of frequencies.

So, for instance, if you’re dealing with high-frequency hearing loss, in order for you to hear a high-frequency sound it may have to be at least 60 dB (which is about the volume of a raised, but not yelling, voice). The volume that the sound must reach for you to hear each frequency varies and will be plotted on the graph.

Is it essential to measure both frequency and volume?

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

  • Whispers, even if hearing volume is good
  • Music
  • Birds
  • “F”, “H”, “S”
  • Beeps, dings, and timers
  • Higher pitched voices like women and children tend to have

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

Inside of the inner ear little stereocilia (hair-like cells) vibrate 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. You will totally lose your ability to hear any frequencies that have lost all of the corresponding hair cells.

This type of hearing loss can make some interactions with friends and family very aggravating. Your family members could think they have to yell at you in order to be heard even though you only have trouble hearing certain wavelengths. And higher frequency sounds, such as your sister speaking to you, often get drowned out by background noise for people with this kind of hearing loss.

We can use the hearing test to individualize hearing solutions

We will be able to custom program a hearing aid for your particular hearing requirements once we’re able to understand which frequencies you’re not able to hear. Contemporary hearing aids have the ability to recognize precisely what frequencies enter the microphone. The hearing aid can be fine tuned to boost whatever frequency you’re having trouble hearing. Or it can alter the frequency through frequency compression to a different frequency that you can hear. They also have features that can make processing background sound less difficult.

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

If you believe you might be dealing with hearing loss, contact us and 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.
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