How to Read an Audiogram

How to Read an Audiogram

In Hearing Tests by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

If you have taken the leap and scheduled a hearing exam, then congratulations are in order! This is often the toughest step and the first one in seeking treatment. After you our hearing healthcare professionals guided you through a hearing exam, they will present the results on what is called an audiogram 

What is an Audiogram?

An audiogram is a graph or chart that shows the result of your hearing test. These charts can be difficult to read if you don’t understand them. However, they are not difficult to understand with a few explanations. Understanding these charts will help you better comprehend your hearing ability, so you can work with us to find the best hearing solutions and treatments.

Audiometric Testing

A hearing test uses audiometric testing to determine your hearing ability across a range of frequencies in each ear. The audiogram will have a reading for each ear individually. Audiometric testing will gage both the intensity and the tone of sounds. The audiogram illustrates your hearing thresholds across various frequencies, or pitches, in a quiet and controlled listening environment. A hearing threshold is the softest sound you can hear about 50 percent of the time. Measuring hearing threshold in a quiet room is important to understand your hearing ability, however it cannot account for hearing loss which manifests in noisy spaces. 

Reading an Audiogram

Your audiogram graph will have two axes:  

  • The horizontal axis represents the pitch from lowest to highest. Imagine it like a piano where the pitch becomes higher the more you move to the right. 
  • The vertical axis of the audiogram represents the loudness of sounds you can detect in the form of  decibels (dB). This is organized with the lowest levels at the top of the graph.

Zero decibels represent the softest level of sound that the average person with normal hearing can detect in any frequency.

Understanding Your Audiogram

Sound using headphones tests air conduction hearing, as it has to travel briefly through the air to reach your ear canal. This is indicated on your audiogram, as a red O for the right ear and blue X for the left. 

Bone conduction testing, tests vibration through the bones of the ear and is marked as a “[“or a “<” symbol. 

Most importantly, any sound attributed to the hearing ability of the left ear is marked in blue and the right is red.

When the red and blue line are close to overlapping, then your hearing loss is considered symmetrical. When the lines are in different points in the graph this is referred to as asymmetrical hearing. 

What is normal hearing on an audiogram?

When your audiogram detects no hearing loss, this is referred to as normal hearing. This is defined as a hearing ability between 0 dB and 25 dB. Any hearing loss that measures above this is defined as a hearing loss. We will help you classify the severity of your hearing loss. The basic level of decibels within classifications of severity is based on the following numbers.

Mild 26 to 40
Moderate 41 to 55
Moderately severe 56 to 70
Severe 71 to 90
Profound 91+

Keep a copy of your audiogram and other test results

It is helpful to ask for a copy of your audiogram that you can keep for further reference. You can keep it in your personal records and refer to it to compare for further exams. Hearing loss is a progressive condition which can start slight or moderate and become worse over time. Saving your audiogram can help you use it as a baseline for you and your hearing care professional to monitor any changes in your hearing down the road.

Treatment Options

In the meantime, in most cases hearing aids can amplify the decibel level and help you hear sounds, pitches and tones that you struggle with. We can help you to program your hearing aids so they pick up only the sounds and tones that you need to amplify. Understanding your audiogram will help you to be an active participant in your hearing health care so you can make informed decisions about your treatment options.