How to Read an Audiogram: What the Results Mean (and Why You Should Care)

You still don’t think you needed one, but to keep your family happy, you went in for your very first hearing exam. You sat in the chair, listened to noises, and were on your way home fairly quickly—and now you have a piece of paper with a strange graph on it. But how can you tell if the graph has good news or bad news if you don’t know what it means?

How to Read the Results of an Audiogram

Learn how to understand the results of your hearing testUnderstanding your test results is key to understanding your condition. Once you know how to read your audiogram, you be able to see where the gaps in your hearing are and which treatments will be most effective. Here are the common elements of an audiogram and what they mean:

  • Lines on the graph. An audiogram is a graphical display of your hearing range, and should have two lines: one for the right ear, and one for the left. The right ear is usually red and marked with a circle or triangle, and the left ear is usually blue and marked with an X or a square. If the two lines overlap each other, your hearing loss is the same in both ears; if they do not overlap, you will hear differently in one ear than the other.
  • Vertical axis. There are two metrics used to measure hearing loss: intensity and frequency. The intensity is measured along the left-hand side of the graph (the vertical axis) in decibels, or dB. The top left of the chart begins at 0 decibels, the lowest level of sound that a normal human ear can detect. A person with normal hearing ability can have a hearing threshold (the softest sound they can hear) anywhere from 0 to 25 dB.
  • Horizontal axis. The frequency of sound runs along the top of the graph, and is measured in Hertz (Hz). This measures the pitch of the sounds you can hear, from lowest to highest. The most frequently measured range is between 250 to 8000 Hz, as this is the range of most normal human speech. Vowel sounds are found at lower frequencies, while consonants (such as S, F, T, K and soft SH sounds) are found at higher frequencies.
  • Symbols. Using these two measurements, the hearing specialist can determine the softest sounds you can hear at a variety of pitches. Each symbol on the chart marks the lowest dB level you can hear at a given frequency. The results for the left ear are marked with an X or square, and the right ear is marked with an O or triangle. Once all of these points are plotted on the graph, the points are connected to form lines to show the hearing in each ear (blue for the left ear, and red for the right).

Is My Hearing Normal?

Take your audiogram and draw a line straight across the 25 dB line near the top of the graph. If all of the markings are above the highlighted line, your hearing ability is within a normal range. If you have Xs or Os below the highlighted line, you have some degree of hearing loss. The severity of your hearing loss depends on how far down the graph the marks go, as well as the frequencies you are able to hear. Loss up to 55 dB is considered moderate, with over 70 dB considered severe.

It is important to keep a copy of your audiogram for your records. Not only can it be used to determine the right kind of treatment for your hearing loss, it can also give you something to compare your future tests to, and alert you to any further changes in hearing.

If you need help choosing the right hearing aid for your condition, we are here to help! Call 888-262-2613 to find the office location nearest you and have our hearing care providers walk you through the selection process.