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How can I understand my hearing test results?

Getting your hearing tested is the first step towards healthy hearing, understanding your hearing test results and your treatment options is the second step.

The outcome of a comprehensive hearing evaluation is a chart of your hearing called an audiogram. An audiogram is a record of the softest sounds you heard during your hearing test (at least half the time, otherwise known as your thresholds) in each ear. An example of an audiogram is shown below.

audiogram

In a hearing test, loudness is measured in decibels hearing level (dB HL). It is represented on the vertical axis of the audiogram, from approximately 0 dB HL (very soft) to 110 dB HL (very loud).

Frequency or pitch is measured in Hertz (Hz.) It is represented on the horizontal axis of the audiogram, from 250Hz (very low pitch) to 8000 Hz (very high pitch). The degree of hearing loss is based on the audiometric thresholds, and ranges from least to most severity in this order: mild, moderate, moderately-severe, severe and profound.

Degrees of Hearing Loss

The results of a hearing test are not typically given in percentage but instead a degree. The following are the degrees of hearing loss:

Mild hearing loss: Thresholds for various pitches are between 25-40 dB HL. With a mild hearing loss difficulty will occur for soft speech and listening in background noise; however in quiet a mild hearing loss is manageable.

Moderate hearing loss: Thresholds are between 41-55 dB HL. With a moderate hearing loss you will experience difficulty hearing conversations, especially while in background noise. The TV or radio may be turned to higher levels also in order to be heard clearly.

Moderately-severe hearing loss: Thresholds are between 56-70 dB HL. For a person with a moderately-severe hearing loss clarity of speech is significantly reduced and the most difficulty will occur in groups.

Severe hearing loss: Thresholds are between 71-90 dB. At this degree of hearing loss, normal conversation will not be audible. Loud speech is also difficult to hear or understand. At this point people with severe hearing loss will only hear if speech is shouted or amplified for them.

Profound Hearing loss: Thresholds are 91 dB and higher. At this level, people with profound hearing loss may have difficulty understanding even amplified speech.

Degrees of Hearing Loss Varies Across Frequencies

As you can see in the audiogram below hearing thresholds are not always the same in each ear or frequency tested. The most common type of hearing loss is high frequency hearing loss (as shown below). With a high frequency hearing loss, there is normal to a mild degree of hearing loss in the low to mid frequencies tested with a more significant degree of hearing loss in the higher frequencies. The hearing loss shown in the below audiogram would be referred to as a mild to moderately-severe high frequency hearing loss.

high frequency hearing loss

Hearing Loss Treatment Recommendations

Based on your hearing test results, your degree of hearing loss and your motivation towards treating your hearing loss your hearing professional will make appropriate recommendations for you and your hearing loss.

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