How to Read an Audiogram

How to Read an Audiogram

In Ear Health by Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A

Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A
Latest posts by Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A (see all)

If you have noticed that you are having trouble hearing, then you are in need of a hearing test. This exam can take several forms, but the most common type is called pure tone audiometry. This exam works to assess which types of sounds are more difficult for you to hear than others. An examiner will have you sit down and listen to a series of tones. You might be asked to listen through headphones, or you might be seated in a soundproof chamber. When you listen to this array of sounds, you will be asked to gesture when you hear something, either by raising your hand or pressing a button. The tones will range in pitch, or frequency, and volume, or amplitude. This combination of frequency and amplitude is all the examiner needs to determine if you have hearing loss in that range of sound. Now that the test is complete, you can rest assured that your hearing health professional can interpret your results and connect you with the right hearing aids for your needs. Hearing aids come in a variety of styles and levels of functionality, so your results from the hearing test are crucial to understanding which hearing aids are appropriate for you. 

Interpreting an Audiogram

Now that your hearing test is complete, the results will be printed in an audiogram. This chart shows gives your examiner a lot of information, but you don’t need to worry about reading the audiogram on your own. In fact, your hearing health professional is an expert at interpreting these results. Although you can trust the interpretation you hear from this professional, you might be curious to read the audiogram for yourself. What do the different points on the chart mean, and what are the implications for your hearing health? The following are some of the important features of the audiogram that can help you understand these results.

Hearing Thresholds

The basic question asked in a hearing test is, “How loud does a sound need to be in order for the test-taker to hear it?” A very quiet sound will be quite difficult for anyone to hear, so each person has their own hearing threshold for a given sound. As well, different frequencies of sound can have different hearing thresholds for an individual. Furthermore, the two ears can have different hearing thresholds, as well. The audiogram can show all of this information in one graphic format. The points on the chart indicate how loud a sound needs to be within a frequency band in order for you to hear it. If you read along the left or right side of the audiogram, you will see numbers getting larger as they move down the chart. The larger the number, the louder that sound needs to be before you can hear it. If a point on the audiogram is very low on the chart, that indicates that you have a more severe degree of hearing loss in that range of sound. A sound will need to be that many decibels louder than average in order for you to hear it. 

Other Audiogram Information

You will notice that there are two sets of points on the audiogram, connected by two different lines. Some audiograms use red and blue lines to connect these points, and others use a series of Xs and Os to mark the points. Blue lines and Xs are used to denote the hearing ability in the left ear, and red lines and Os are used to denote the hearing ability in the right ear. If your line is generally higher on the chart in red or with Os, the you know that you have less hearing loss in your right ear than your left, otherwise known as asymmetrical hearing loss. With these basic points of information, you can learn a lot about your hearing profile, including which sounds are the most difficult to hear. Those frequencies are denoted in Hertz across the top and bottom of the chart. If you have any trouble understanding these aspects of the audiogram, don’t hesitate to ask your hearing health professional to interpret the results with you