When you speak to an audiologist for the first time, you may feel apprehensive about what’s to come about a hearing test. When you have concluded your hearing test, your audiologist will come into the room with a chart from your audiogram. They will be able to talk you through all the signs, symbols, colors and lines so that you can understand your hearing test much better. This is going to help you to see a visual of the precision of your hearing loss but can be confusing if you don’t know what you’re looking at. 

The hearing tests that you go through are plotted on an audiogram, and while this can add a little confusion, your audiologist is more than qualified to talk you through it in plain English so that you can understand it. Just because it looks difficult to understand doesn’t mean that you’re incapable of understanding it. All you need is a lesson in the terminology so that you can effectively listen to your audiologist and gain a great understanding of what’s going on in your hearing. 

Understanding the frequencies

An audiogram is – quite simply – a graph that records the volume on the vertical axis and the sound frequency on the horizontal axis. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Vertical: This axis measures the sound intensity in dB – decibels. When you go up the axis, the sound volume decreases. At the very top of the line at zero dB, the volume is soft, faint and barely audible. The levels down the line represent progressively louder sounds until you hit 100 dB.
  • Horizontal: This axis measures the sound frequency, and this is measured in Hertz (Hz). When you start at the top left of the graph, you will see a lower frequency up to 250 Hz. as you go along the horizontal axis to the right, the frequency increases gradually right to 8,000 Hz. The sounds that are generally low frequency include vowel sounds, and the consonant sounds of speech are of a higher frequency.

Assessing your hearing

When you are trying to work out the graph, it’s not complicated. Start the top left corner of the graph at the very lowest frequency. Your audiologist will talk you through a sound at this frequency through headphones and in a sound-proof cubicle. They will start with the smallest volume decibel level, and if you can hear it at zero, then a mark will be made between 125 Hz and zero dB. If you cannot hear it here, then the sound will be played at the next loudest decibel level. This continues along until marks are made where you can hear the sound. This method is repeated for all frequencies as your audiologist will move along the horizontal frequency axis.

What does normal hearing look like?

Well, normal hearing is a person who can hear every sound frequency level, from 125 to 8,000 Hz, at zero to 25 dB. If you can hear all frequencies under 25 dB or higher, then you likely have perfectly normal hearing. However, if you cannot perceive the sound of a frequency between zero and 25 dB, then there is a hearing loss present and the lowest decibel where you can hear a sound is a frequency that establishes the degree of your hearing loss.

So, if you can think of the 1,000 Hertz frequency on the graph. If you can hear this at zero to 25 dB, you have normal hearing for this frequency. If you can’t hear this until the frequency is at 40 dB, then there is a moderate hearing loss at this specific frequency. You could find that you have normal hearing at some frequencies but not others. This is a list that will tell you the decibel levels that match normal hearing and mild, moderate, severe and profound hearing loss:

  • Normal hearing: zero to 25 decibels
  • Mild hearing loss: 20-40 decibels
  • Moderate hearing loss: 40-70 decibels
  • Severe hearing loss: 70-90 decibels
  • Profound hearing loss: 90+ decibels

Now that you know the basics of your hearing test, you can book an appointment with your audiologist and understand a little more about your hearing levels. To schedule an appointment with a qualified and respected audiologist, you can learn more about Hearing & Balance Centers of West Tennessee by calling either of these phone numbers: Jackson at (731) 256-5973, or Memphis at (901) 201-6761.