Breaking down an audiogram
After going to your hearing exam, you'll receive an audiogram that will lay out the results in the form of a graph. Similar to a picture of your hearing threshold, an audiogram is comprised of two main components that display how well your hearing is in each ear.
The audiogram will document the softest noises that you were able to hear during your exam so you can properly be fitted for hearing aids or any other equipment that can help you improve your hearing. Your hearing threshold is based on the intensity of a puretone, which are the sounds you listen to during a hearing exam, that is barely detected 50 percent of the time, typically in two of three presentations.
An audiogram looks similar to a graph chart. There is an x- and y-axis that allow an audiologist to document your hearing. To understand clearly, think of how a piano keyboard is laid out based on pitch. On the x-axis, it shows low to high frequencies from left to right, and the y-axis has decibels from soft sounds at the top to loud noises at the bottom. You'll also notice that there are x's and o's marked across the graph, which represent your left and right ears, respectively.
What are frequency and intensity?
When you're reading your audiogram, it will be helpful to truly understand what frequency and intensity mean for your hearing. Intensity of a noise is basically the amplitude or volume level. This is measured in decibels. Normal speech is generally around 50 decibels, breathing is around 10 decibels and a lawnmower is around 100 decibels.
Frequency refers to the pitch of noise that you are able to hear. Sometimes people who suffer from hearing loss will be able to hear different pitches more clearly than others. To better understand this, you can think of instruments. A tuba makes lower-pitched sounds and a flute makes high-pitched sounds.
In terms of hearing other people's speech, frequencies are different based on the letters that are being pronounced. For example, consonant sounds like k, f, s and th are spoken at higher frequencies. If you have trouble understanding words with these letters, your hearing loss is based less on the loudness of speech. People who have hearing loss associated with age are likely to have trouble hearing higher frequency noises.
Determining your degree of hearing loss
Along the y-axis, you'll notice numbers that range between 0 and 120, which represents the decibel level of sounds you're able to hear well. From here, you can tell what degree your hearing loss fits into. If the line is plotted between 0 and 20, you have normal hearing. Mild hearing loss is between 21 and 40, moderate is between 41 and 55, moderately-severe is between 56 and 70, severe is 71 to 90 and profound hearing loss is 91 decibels and over.