An audiogram provides a visual picture of how your individual hearing loss impacts access to sound, and can serve as an important tool in developing your hearing loss strategy. Here’s how they are created.
A hearing care professional (an audiologist or hearing instrument dispenser) will determine your degree of hearing loss by asking you to listen to a series of sounds during an audiometric hearing test. The results of that test will then be charted on a graph – called an audiogram — that shows which sounds you can hear well, and which ones you can’t. The horizontal axis on the audiogram indicates sound frequency or the pitch, and the vertical axis indicates loudness.
The different loudness and frequencies of where the sounds of speech fall on the audiogram can be seen in a banana-shaped pattern, which is often called the “speech banana.” Typically, if your hearing is in the normal range, you will easily have access to all of those speech sounds. People with good hearing usually have results well above the banana portion of the graph. Conversely, if results fall within or underneath the banana, the person may have trouble hearing and understanding speech.
Generally, people with normal hearing are able to hear all of the ranges shown on the chart. This is usually classified in the range of -10 to 25 db HL.
Those with mild hearing loss (26 to 40 db HL) usually cannot hear soft noises, making it difficult for them to understand speech in loud places (e.g. restaurants) or feel that people may be mumbling at times
People living with moderate and moderately severe hearing loss (41 to 70 db HL) find soft or moderately loud sounds or speech difficult to impossible to hear. This means that they usually have trouble communicating with someone if the person they are talking to is slightly further away from them, or if there is any background noise in the area (like air conditioning units or televisions)
People with severe hearing loss (71 to 90 db HL) generally cannot make out anything that’s softer than 70 decibels, which means that in order to communicate in any way, you need to increase your volume to a shouting level. This makes any type of conversation nearly impossible without the use of some form of amplification.
Profound hearing loss (+91 db HL) means that only very loud sounds can be heard. This makes communication extremely difficult and may require a variety of communication methods, including speech reading or sign language in addition to amplification devices like hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Here are some quick tidbits that may help you decipher your personalized audiogram results:
- Results for each ear will be included, usually an “X” for your left ear, and an “O” for your right. A line representing each will then be plotted across the audiogram as a series of connected X or O’s.
- Sounds located above the plotted line on the chart are not heard at all, while sounds that occur below are heard.
- Results plotted on the audiogram will give you an idea of the sounds and frequencies that you are not hearing. The example below indicates a bi-lateral, high-frequency hearing loss. The person with this kind of loss would not be able to hear birds chirping or leaves rustling.