One of the tools that audiologists and hearing health care providers rely on is an audiogram, a graph that denotes an individual’s hearing ability at a variety of sound frequency levels. While your personal hearing health professional will help you to understand what your own individual results mean, it may be helpful to understand the basics of how to read an audiogram.
What do audiograms tells us?
As detailed by The National Hearing Test, audiograms are used to display data that is taken when an individual has his or her hearing thresholds measured. This metric is important, as it points to how mild or severe a person’s hearing loss is currently. The hearing threshold is defined as the level of quietness a sound can get to before an individual can no longer hear it. This is measured in decibels. A person with average hearing will experience a hearing threshold of between 0 and 25 decibels, Hear-It explained.
To get a wider picture of the extent of hearing loss, different frequencies are used, in each ear, during testing. This is measured in hertz, The National Hearing Test noted. Otherwise known as pitch, conversation volume will typically register a frequency of between 500 hz and 3000 hz.
The level of hearing loss is then measured by taking an individual’s results, and comparing them with scores which indicate a typical range of hearing. For example, 40 to 55 db signifies moderate hearing loss, as opposed to a typical conversation range between 0 and 25 db.
How to read audiograms
The audiogram appears as a grid, with the horizontal axis indicating loudness of sound in decibels, and the vertical axis signifying the pitch of the sound in hertz, the American Speech-Language Hearing Association explained. The range of decibels moves from -10 up to 120. The higher the number of decibels, the louder the sound. The range of pitches, which moves from left to right on the graph, starts at -10 and goes up to 8000.
The results of a hearing test are plotted on the audiogram using a color and letter scheme: A blue X is chosen to represent results taken from testing on the left ear, and a red O is used to indicate results from the right ear. The letters are placed on the graph to show levels of hearing at each pitch. So for example, if a person had a hearing level of around 15 decibels in his right ear, at a pitch level of 500, that would be plotted on the graph using a red letter O, at the point where the two axis intersect. The correlation of the data, or lack thereof, can then be presented by drawing a line through all of the letter markings.
As explained by The National Hearing Test, it is quite common for levels of hearing loss to vary between ears. Hearing loss can also be contingent on pitch. It is possible for a person to experience one level of hearing at lower pitches, for example, but experience moderate or severe hearing loss at high pitches.
How does an audiogram help you?
Having an understanding of your own hearing level can help you be prepared when approaching different hearing situations. For example, if you hear better in one ear than the other, you may consider that when positioning yourself at a business meeting or at the dinner table. It also enables you to adjust the volume and tone control on assistive devices, to get the optimal sound quality for your individual hearing level. For example, you can customize the Tone Quality on a CapTel Captioned Telephone to match the shape of your audiogram, ensuring that the sound quality over the phone is a direct match to the frequencies that you hear best.
The best source for information about audiograms and other details about hearing loss is your own personal doctor or audiologist.