When it comes to assessing your hearing health, an audiogram is an essential tool that audiologists use to measure your hearing abilities. This graph, which may seem perplexing at first glance, holds the key to understanding the extent and nature of your hearing loss. We wanted to make it easier to understand the symbols, lines and valuable insights it provides.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to audiologists near me if you or a loved one are experiencing hearing loss!
What is an audiogram?
First things first, an audiogram is a visual representation of your hearing capabilities. It is created during a hearing test, also known as an audiometric evaluation, which is typically conducted by an audiologist. The audiogram plots two critical aspects of your hearing, frequency and intensity.
The frequency (Hz) represents the pitch or tone of a sound, ranging from low-frequency sounds, like a deep voice or bass guitar, to high-frequency sounds, such as a bird chirping or a whistle. The intensity (dB HL) represents the loudness or volume of sounds, measured in decibels (dB). It measures how faint or loud a sound must be for you to hear it.
Deciphering the audiogram
An audiogram typically resembles a grid with two axes: frequency on the horizontal axis (from low to high) and intensity on the vertical axis (from soft to loud). The resulting graph shows the threshold of your hearing across various frequencies.
Below is how to interpret the key components of an audiogram.
O – Represents the right ear's hearing thresholds
X – Represents the left ear's hearing thresholds
I – Indicates where bone conduction testing was performed
[ ] – Indicates air conduction testing
The horizontal axis typically ranges from 250 Hz (low frequency) to 8000 Hz (high frequency). Each mark on the axis corresponds to a specific frequency at which your hearing was tested.
Intensity (dB HL)
The vertical axis represents the loudness of sounds. The lowest point on the graph (usually at the top) represents sounds that are inaudible or too soft for you to hear. As you move down the graph, the intensity increases, with the threshold of audibility typically marked at 0 dB.
The lines on the audiogram represent your hearing thresholds at different frequencies. The lower the line, the better your hearing at that specific frequency. The steeper the slope of the line, the more significant the hearing loss.
Types of hearing loss
There are three primary types of hearing loss that an audiogram can help identify, conductive, sensorineural and mixed.
Conductive hearing loss
When the lines on the audiogram show hearing loss primarily in the lower frequencies, it suggests conductive hearing loss, often related to issues in the outer or middle ear. This type of hearing loss can often be treated medically.
Sensorineural hearing loss
If the lines show hearing loss across various frequencies, it indicates sensorineural hearing loss. This type of hearing loss usually results from damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve and is often permanent.
Mixed hearing loss
When both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss are present, it is referred to as mixed hearing loss. This may indicate problems in both the middle and inner ear.
Using the audiogram for treatment
Once your hearing is mapped on an audiogram, your audiologist will use this information to recommend the most appropriate treatment options. This may include hearing aids, assistive listening devices or medical interventions, depending on the type and severity of your hearing loss.
Visit audiologists near me
Understanding the basics of how to read an audiogram empowers you to make informed decisions about your hearing care and treatment options. We hope that the next time you receive an audiogram, you'll be better equipped to decipher the patterns and graphs that reveal the unique story of your hearing abilities. We’re always here to help! If you have any questions, contact us today!