Understanding your hearing loss is made simple with an audiogram. An audiogram plots the frequencies you can hear on a graph, helping you and your audiologist understand the specific degree and type of hearing loss you have. You hearing specialist will go over the results of your audiogram with you and explain what it means. Although audiograms can seem confusing at a first glance, once you learn how to read your audiogram you will have a better understanding of your hearing loss.
What is an Audiogram?
The goal of an audiometric test is to measure your hearing ability by measuring your hearing thresholds and the results are plotted on a chart called an audiogram. Hearing thresholds are defined as the softest sounds you are able to hear, don’t be surprised if you miss some of the sounds. This is performed in a quiet environment and the results are plotted on your audiogram.
The audiogram uses a specific numerical system to measure your hearing ability in quiet settings. Your hearing specialist will walk you through the audiometric test and thoroughly explain how the audiogram plots your hearing and what to expect from the test.
How to Read Your Audiogram
There are two axes on the audiogram.
The horizontal axis (x-axis) represents frequency (pitch) from lowest to highest. The lowest frequency tested is around 250 Hertz (Hz), and the highest is around 8000 Hz. Frequency changes from lower to higher based on the progression from left to right. Most speech falls into the 250 to 6000 Hz range, with vowel sounds being around the lowest frequency and consonants around the highest frequencies.
The vertical axis (y-axis) represents intensity (loudness) of sound in decibels (dB). The lowest levels are at the top of the graph on the audiogram. The top left of the chart is labeled as -10 dB or 0 dB. That doesn’t mean the absence of sound, it actually represents soft sounds that the average person with normal hearing can hear.
To graphically indicate where your hearing is on the audiogram, hearing specialists use different symbols to indicate your hearing threshold. For air conduction tests your right ear is marked with a red “O,” and your left ear is marked with a blue “X.” Bone conduction tests are marked with either a “[“or “<” symbol.
Your hearing specialist will classify the severity of your hearing loss by where the symbols fall on the graph. Hearing loss is typically classified as slight, mild, moderate, moderate-to-severe, severe or profound. Your hearing specialist will also describe the pattern of your hearing loss, whether it is flat, sloping, or rising.
Although complex, audiograms don’t have to be difficult to understand. They are designed to help you understand your hearing loss and for your hearing specialist to diagnose your exact degree of hearing loss. If you’re curious what your audiogram would look like, or if you have hearing loss, contact your local provider today!