Nearly 48 million Americans — 15 percent of the population — have a diagnosable form of hearing loss. To diagnose hearing loss, an individual must visit a hearing healthcare professional. During that appointment, the hearing healthcare professional will perform a pure-tone hearing test. The results of this test are known as an audiogram, a graph illustrating the type and degree and pattern of hearing loss across frequencies, or tones.

Sound frequencies

The frequency or pitch of sound is measured in Hertz (Hz) while the loudness or intensity of sound is measured in decibels (dB). During a pure-tone hearing test, reactions to stimuli are recorded on an audiogram, indicating the intensity levels for each tested frequency.

Reading your audiogram

An audiogram can be difficult to read to the uneducated eye, but once the graph is understood, analyzing one’s hearing loss can be much easier. Each vertical line represents pitch or frequency in Hz. The left side of the graph mirrors the lowest pitches, while the highest pitches are shown on the right side of the graph. The audiogram frequency ranges from 125 Hz to 8000 Hz. Examples of low-pitched sounds include a bass drum or tuba while types of high-pitched sounds include birds chirping or the chime of a metal triangle.

Understanding your results

The horizontal lines on the audiogram represent loudness or intensity. The top of the chart represents soft sounds — a ticking clock, whisper of a child or rustling leaves — while the lines at the bottom of the chart indicate very loud sounds. Examples of loud sounds with higher dB measures are a lawnmower, car horn and concert.

The audiogram will show the pattern of hearing loss, also called the configuration, as well as the degree of hearing loss. For example, you may experience normal hearing in low pitches, enabling you to hear everyday conversation, but have hearing loss at higher pitches, causing you to miss the chirp of the morning birds.

Treating hearing loss

Upon reading the audiogram, your hearing healthcare professional will be able to determine the corrective devices you will most benefit from. Hearing aids are the most common form of treatment for hearing loss and there are numerous hearing care providers equipped to help you select the right device!