Whether you've recently had a professional hearing test or you're planning to get one soon, this article is here to help! We'll walk you through what to expect during a hearing test, learn about the audiogram and how it works, and provide a friendly guide on interpreting your hearing test results.
What is An Audiogram?
The audiogram is a graphical representation that displays hearing test results, helping you visualize your unique hearing ability.
The audiogram has two axes: frequency (measured in Hertz) and volume (measured in decibels). Your hearing thresholds for each frequency are plotted as symbols on the graph, typically using different colors or shapes to represent each ear.
A hearing test depicts your ability to perceive sounds based on their frequency (high-pitched versus low-pitched) and volume, indicating their loudness.
Understanding the measurement of sound in an audiogram can be simplified by relating it to everyday examples. Here are a few comparisons:
Low-Frequency Sound: Refrigerator hum or the rumble of a distant thunderstorm.
High-Frequency Sound: Birds chirping or the tinkling sound of a wind chime.
Soft Sounds: Leaves rustling or the whisper of a gentle breeze.
Loud Sounds: Booming fireworks or the roar of a jet engine.
By presenting results for each ear, the audiogram results inform the audiologist about the faintest sound you can detect at specific frequencies. Thus, painting a clear picture of your unique hearing capabilities.
How Does An Audiogram Work?
During an audiogram, you will sit in a quiet space and wear headphones connected to an audiometer, a specialized device that generates sounds of various frequencies and volumes. The audiologist or hearing care specialist will also have a control panel to adjust the settings.
The test begins with a series of beeps played at different frequencies in one ear at a time, ranging from low to high. Each frequency corresponds to a specific pitch of sound.
Next, you will raise your hand or press a button when you hear a tone, helping the audiologist determine the softest sound you can hear at each frequency.
After assessing your hearing at different frequencies, the audiometer will present tones at a fixed frequency (usually around 1,000 Hz) and gradually increase their volume. This step helps determine your discomfort or pain threshold, known as the uncomfortable loudness level.
Then, the audiologist records your responses on an audiogram to interpret the results and make recommendations accordingly. Don’t worry; the hearing test is painless and risk-free.
Understanding and interpreting an audiogram is easier than you might think!
An audiogram uses specific symbols to represent various frequencies and volume levels. Sounds fall within different areas of the audiogram chart depending on their frequency and volume.
Let's explore how to decipher these symbols and make sense of your audiogram results.
Frequency Axis: On the horizontal axis of the audiogram, you will find the frequency measured in Hertz (Hz). The frequency represents the pitch of the sounds, ranging from low-pitched sounds on the left side to high-pitched sounds on the right side of the graph.
Volume Axis: The vertical axis of the audiogram represents intensity measured in decibels (dB). Intensity indicates the loudness of sounds, with softer sounds at the top and louder sounds at the bottom of the graph.
X and O Symbols: X and O symbols are commonly used on the audiogram to represent the air conduction thresholds for the right ear (X) and the left ear (O). These symbols indicate the softest sounds you can hear at different frequencies. The closer the symbol is to the top of the graph, the greater the hearing loss at that frequency.
Audiogram Markings: Audiologists use various markings on the graph to denote specific hearing levels. The "X" represents the normal hearing range, indicating that you can hear sounds within the average range for that frequency. "O" indicates hearing loss, with the degree of severity increasing as the symbol moves lower on the graph.
Degrees of Hearing Loss: The severity of hearing loss is categorized into degrees, ranging from mild to profound. The audiogram will typically include key thresholds to determine the degree of hearing loss, such as:
Normal (0-25 dB): Indicates no significant hearing loss.
Mild (26-40 dB): Slight difficulty hearing softer sounds or speech in noisy environments.
Moderate (41-55 dB): Difficulty hearing normal conversation without amplification.
Moderately severe (56-70 dB): Difficulty hearing speech, even with raised voices.
Severe (71-90 dB): Limited ability to hear speech without amplification.
Profound (91+ dB): Extreme difficulty or inability to hear speech, even with amplification.
By examining the placement of symbols and markings on the audiogram, you can better understand your hearing abilities and the extent of any hearing loss you may have. Consult with an audiologist or hearing care professional to accurately interpret your audiogram and discuss suitable treatment options, such as hearing aids or other interventions.
Who Needs An Audiogram?
An audiogram can provide valuable insights into your hearing health and overall well-being.
Here are 6 reasons why you should consider getting an audiogram:
Identify Hearing Loss: An audiogram is the most effective way to diagnose hearing loss. By undergoing a hearing evaluation and obtaining an audiogram, you can determine if you have any degree of hearing loss and understand its nature (conductive, sensorineural, or mixed).
Early Detection: Regular audiograms can help in the early detection of hearing problems. Identifying hearing loss at an early stage allows for timely intervention and management, which can significantly improve outcomes and quality of life.
Establish Baseline: An initial audiogram serves as a baseline measurement of your hearing abilities. It provides a reference point against which future audiograms can be compared, helping to monitor any changes in your hearing over time.
Personalized Treatment: An audiogram provides valuable information that can guide the development of a personalized treatment plan. Based on the specific results of your audiogram, recommendations can be made for hearing aids, assistive listening devices, communication strategies, or other interventions tailored to your unique needs.
Overall Health Awareness: Hearing loss is not just an isolated condition; it can be linked to various underlying health issues. By getting an audiogram, you can gain awareness of any potential health concerns associated with hearing loss, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or neurological conditions.
Lifestyle Improvement: Addressing hearing loss through appropriate interventions can significantly enhance your quality of life. Improved communication, better social interactions, increased cognitive abilities, and overall well-being are among the benefits that can result from managing hearing loss effectively.
Are you preparing for an audiogram test? Here’s what to expect and some of the most common questions answered:
How Long Does An Audiogram Take?
An audiogram hearing test is minimally invasive and painless. The hearing test takes 20 to 30 minutes, and the audiologist will review the results with you.
How Accurate is An Audiogram?
An audiogram is considered the gold standard in hearing tests and is highly accurate because of the extensive testing and categorizations for hearing loss.
What Are Normal Audiogram Levels?
Normal hearing levels are between the frequencies of zero and 20dB.
Mild hearing loss threshold is between 21-40dB. The sound of a whisper is about 30dB, and the sound of a normal conversation is about 60dB, so most people with mild hearing loss need to ask others to repeat themselves often.
Severe hearing loss has a threshold between 71-90dB, making most noise inaudible.
What is the ‘speech banana’?
“Speech banana” describes the area where most sounds of average conversational speech occur on this graph. Because the area resembles the shape of a banana, audiologists refer to these sounds as the speech banana.
For example, different speech sounds have different pitches or volumes. Consonant sounds (words with TSBGHXJK etc.) are more high-pitched and low in volume, and vowel sounds (words with EAOUI) are low-pitched and low to medium volume. When you can hear both the vowels and consonants of words, it's easier to follow a conversation. This is especially important to consider in children beginning to develop speech.
Can An Audiogram Detect Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a perception of sound without an external stimulus, often described as ringing, buzzing, or hissing in the ears. This sensation varies from person to person.
During an audiogram, the primary focus is on measuring and evaluating your hearing sensitivity across different frequencies and intensity levels. Tinnitus, however, does not necessarily correlate with specific patterns on an audiogram, as it is not solely related to hearing loss.
However, an audiogram can still provide some insights indirectly related to tinnitus. For example, it can identify if there is any hearing loss that might contribute to the perception of tinnitus. Additionally, specific tests conducted during the audiogram, such as pitch matching and loudness discomfort levels, may help assess tinnitus's characteristics and severity.
Now that you know what to expect during a hearing test, interpreting your hearing test results becomes much easier and less intimidating. Just think of a hearing test as a friendly tool to uncover your hearing abilities, improve your overall hearing health, and enhance your everyday life.
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