Understanding Your Audiogram

hearing loss patient sitting for hearing test

In order to assess your hearing function and diagnose any hearing problems, your audiologist will carry out a number of tests. These are typically non-invasive and don’t cause any pain or discomfort whatsoever. However, they do provide a comprehensive assessment of your hearing function and any hearing loss you’re experiencing. 

In most cases, the results of these tests will be plotted on to an audiogram. This provides you with vital information regarding your hearing capabilities and can be used to identify suitable treatments and hearing loss management if they’re necessary.

By looking at your audiogram, for example, you can determine the severity of your hearing loss, which ear is affected and whether your hearing loss is associated with high or low frequencies. In order to access these details, however, you’ll need to know exactly how to interpret an audiogram. 

What does an audiogram mean?

When you first see an audiogram, it might appear very complicated and confusing. However, audiograms are easier to understand than you think. Following a hearing test, your audiologist will ask whether you’d like a copy of your audiogram results. You’ll notice that the audiogram has numbers going both horizontally and vertically at the side and either at the top or the bottom. 

Sound volume is measured in decibels or dB, and you’ll typically see these numbers decreasing from the bottom of the chart upwards. Across the top or bottom of the chart, you’ll see numbers ascending in kilohertz or hertz; this measures the frequency of the sound. 

On the chart, you’ll also notice two lines; one in blue and one in red. These represent each year, so the blue line may chart your hearing loss in your left ear, whilst the red line may be used to plot the hearing function of your right ear. Along each line, you’ll also see Xs and Os, which are also used to represent each year. An X on the blue line will show the result of a hearing test conducted on your left ear, for example. 

By looking at how the lines are plotted and comparing them against the decibels at the side of the graph and the kilohertz at the top or bottom of the chart, you can determine whether you’re experiencing any hearing loss at all and, if so, whether both ears are affected and how severe the hearing loss is. 

Interpreting your hearing test

If hearing loss is present, the first thing to determine is whether you’re experiencing symmetrical or asymmetrical hearing loss. If the hearing loss is symmetrical, it means both ears are functioning to a similar level. As a result, both the blue and red lines will follow a similar pattern. However, if asymmetrical hearing loss is apparent, there may be quite a noticeable difference between the two colored lines.

Where the lines are on the graph will also show what type of hearing loss you’re experiencing. If a red line reaches the bottom right-hand corner of the chart, for example, it may indicate that you have high-frequency hearing loss in your right ear. This is because you can only hear sounds at a higher kilohertz when the decibel (volume) is increased. If the red line was in the top right of the graph, it would indicate a good level of hearing function in the right ear at high frequencies, because you would be able to hear them at a much lower decibel, or volume. 

Seeking advice from your audiologist

Although it’s beneficial to keep a copy of your audiogram and interpret it yourself, this should never replace professional medical advice. If you’re having trouble understanding the results of your hearing test, always ask your audiologist to explain what it means. They’ll be happy to work through the information with you and are always willing to help you understand more about your hearing function. Like all hearing maintenance and treatment, from ear cleaning to hearing aid fitting, this is best carried out by an experienced professional. 

Once your hearing test has been completed and your results are available via an audiogram, your audiologist will be able to tell you whether any hearing problems have been identified and, if so, what type of treatment or management is recommended. 

If your audiogram indicates hearing loss, for example, your audiologist may advise you to wear hearing aids in order to amplify and enhance sounds so that you can hear them clearly. To learn more about what your audiogram means, contact The Speech & Hearing Center now on (423) 622-6900.