If you have hearing loss, you should visit a clinic for an accurate hearing test called an audiogram. But what is an audiogram, and what can it tell you? See below for everything you need to know about audiograms.
What exactly is an audiogram?
An audiogram is a kind of graph. It is the result of a hearing test, also known as an audiometric test, performed at a clinic like ours. This is one of the first stages of the process towards having a hearing aid fitted. This is because an accurate hearing test allows your hearing clinician to determine what’s gone wrong with your hearing. The test is administered by a professional, either for a fee or as part of a free/relatively cheap consultation. We then input the rest of this data onto a graph.
This is what we then call the audiogram. We display the results of the hearing test in such a way that we can show you, at a glance, what kind of hearing loss you have. This is useful, because while our hearing experts deal with data like these, and terms like ‘Kilohertz’ and the classifications of hearing loss every day, we know that our patients don’t. That’s why it’s important that we plot the data in an audiogram.
What does an audiogram measure?
An audiogram allows your clinician to measure the level of your hearing loss. This is classified in an industry-wide standard, which allows us to quickly and effectively determine the needs of every visitor to our clinic. An accurate hearing test will be able to tell where you land on this scale. The classification of hearing loss is as follows:
This is the level of hearing that everybody, ideally, should have. A person has normal hearing if the quietest sound they can hear at a particular frequency is between 0 and 20 dB (decibels).
Mild hearing loss
Mild hearing loss presents few problems in day to day life. Nevertheless, a person with mild hearing loss cannot hear everything that a person with normal hearing can. So, to be classified as having mild hearing loss, a person must have a hearing threshold between 21 and 40 dB. The sound of leaves rustling, or a whisper, is on average around 30 dB.
Moderate hearing loss
Moderate hearing loss is the point at which your hearing loss begins to affect your daily life. It is characterised by having a hearing threshold between 41 and 55 db. The sound of normal conversation is around 60 dB, so at this point, you will be finding it difficult to follow conversations without asking people to repeat themselves.
Moderate to severe hearing loss
…is characterised by a hearing threshold of between 56 and 70 dB. This means that you cannot follow conversation without the person you’re talking to raising their voice. With this form of hearing loss, you will struggle to hear as you go about your day to day life.
Severe hearing loss
…is defined as having a hearing threshold between 71 and 90 dB. At this level, almost all noise is inaudible. You will be completely unable to go about your day to day life without being in danger. For instance, you wouldn’t be able to hear a car coming if you were crossing the street. We’re sure that you can think of plenty of dangerous situations that it would be difficult or impossible to avoid with this kind of hearing loss.
Profound hearing loss
…is any form of hearing loss where you cannot hear sounds at a lower volume than 91 decibels. For scale, any noise above 80 decibels is potentially harmful to the hearing. So this means that you may not even be able to hear a police siren or a pneumatic drill. Even an accurate hearing test might struggle to determine what you can or can’t hear at these levels.
How are the results of a hearing test displayed in an audiogram?
The results for an audiogram are displayed in such a way that they highlight a number of factors. First, and most importantly, it normally has two lines running across the graph: this is for your left and right ears. Across the X axis- the one which runs from right to left- we plot the frequency of the sounds you heard during your exam. This runs from very low sounds, which are on the left, to very high pitched sounds on the right. Along the Y axis, which runs from top to bottom, the audiogram measures the volume of the noises you heard during your test, in decibels. This is how the audiogram shows your level of hearing loss.
Then at the very bottom of the graph, we have the loudest possible sounds which you would have heard. At the top of the graph are the very quietest sounds, which require an accurate hearing test to get right. Ideally, your audiogram will show two straight lines, right across the top of the page. This would mean that your hearing is entirely perfect. It would demonstrate that you could hear even the very quietest sounds, at every frequency.
Of course, this never happens in real life. But with normal hearing, your audiogram would not be too far off. With hearing loss, however, your graph will either be a line lower down the page, or a line that dips at one end or the other. This would mean that your general hearing is poor, or that your hearing at high or low frequencies is particularly poor, respectively. The good news is that your hearing aid can help you with that by boosting either just lower or higher frequency sounds!