Interpreting Your Audiogram
The results of a basic hearing test are plotted on a graph, called an audiogram, as seen to the right. Across the top of the graph, you can see the different frequencies or pitches that are heard throughout the testing with the low, bass tones plotted on the left and the high, treble tones plotted on the right. Down the side of the graph is plotted volume or loudness with soft sounds marked at the top of the graph and loud sounds at the bottom. The red Ο’s represent the hearing levels for the right ear and the blue X’s represent the hearing levels for the left ear. The O’s and X’s indicate how loud different sounds need to be for the listener to just barely hear it. The higher the marks are on the graph the better the hearing.
Hearing levels are described as normal hearing, slight hearing loss, mild hearing loss, moderate hearing loss, moderately-severe hearing loss, severe hearing loss, or profound hearing loss. For example, on the top audiogram, the hearing levels for the low to mid pitches are within normal limits. However, the hearing levels for the high pitch sounds fall outside of normal to a moderate hearing loss.
When all hearing levels or the hearing levels at some pitches fall outside the normal range, particular speech sounds can be difficult to hear, which can affect the clarity of speech. On the bottom audiogram, different speech sounds are plotted according to their approximate pitch and loudness. When speech sounds fall below the O’s and X’s, which indicate hearing levels, they are audible to the listener. However, when the speech sounds are above the marked hearing levels, the sounds may not be heard by the listener. A patient with an audiogram similar to the bottom one will likely have great difficulty hearing the speech sounds /k/, /s/, /th/, and /f/ and may often misunderstand what is being said.