When you visit an audiologist for the first time, the first thing they are likely to do after you’ve discussed what brought you to their office is to test your hearing.
Audiograms are the way hearing care professionals chart how your hearing is compared to a standard baseline and if you have any hearing loss.
Regular hearing testing is an important part of your hearing journey so understanding what the test is and how it works is good information to know.
Read on to find out what an audiogram is, what hearing care professionals are looking for, and more.
What Is An Audiogram?
An audiogram is a chart generated from a medical test of hearing that measures how well your ears hear certain ranges of sounds. The graph is made up of two variables, how loud a sound is (intensity) and the speed of the vibrations (tone).
During a hearing test, you will wear a special set of headphones attached to an audiometer. The hearing care professional (HCP) will ask you to signal when you can or cannot hear a certain noise that is played through the machine. The results are then graphed for both ears and help the HCP determine which frequencies and tones you are having difficulty hearing if any.
They look a little bit like this:
As you can see on the chart, the Y-axis is measured on the decibel (dB) scale and determines how intense a sound is. Sound above 85 decibels over time can cause serious damage to your hearing.
Meanwhile, the x-axis (tone) is measured in hertz. Humans can hear sounds between 20 and 20,000 hertz. A very low bass sound will be in the 50hz range while a shrill whistle will be somewhere in the 10-15000hz range.
According to this graph, this patient is struggling to hear sounds in the 2000-6000hz range which is why there is a sudden increase in how intense the sound needs to be.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss on an Audiogram
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear. This damage prevents the brain from receiving signals from the outer ear. As a result, the brain cannot interpret these signals correctly or they do not pass through at all.
On an audiogram, this may take many different forms depending on how severe the hearing loss is. You can see an example below. Please note that this is not an actual audiogram but for illustration purposes only.
Above you can see one common appearance of SNHL: a downward slope as the frequency gets higher. This increase in decibels means that the sound needs to be more intense in order for the person to hear it.
In most cases of sensorineural hearing loss, your hearing care professional is likely to recommend ways to protect your hearing. They are also likely to suggest hearing aid options to make it easier to hear those frequencies that you are unable to hear.
Conductive Hearing Loss on an Audiogram
Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves do not reach the inner ear because of a problem with the middle ear. Middle ear problems include fluid buildup in the middle ear, inflammation, or infection.
As you can see on the example above, there’s not much of a change across frequencies. Every frequency is dampened by whatever the obstruction is. Once the obstruction is removed or the cause has been cleared up, people usually regain most of their hearing assuming there wasn’t existing problems.
How do I get an Audiogram?
Audiograms can be administered by pretty much all hearing care professionals, whether they are audiologists or ENT physicians. If you think you might have hearing loss, you should find a hearing care professional in your area and have your hearing tested right away.
Even if it turns out that you do not have hearing loss, it is a good idea to have your hearing tested every few years just to have a baseline of your hearing ability on record.
If you’re looking to find an audiologist near you, check out the Vibe partners page for more information.