Hearing test results are recorded onto a internationally recognised chart called an audiogram. At first glance an audiogram can look very intimidating---full of numbers and lines---but it can be very simply read once you know how. A hearing test checks for hearing loss and is common practice in schools and transportation industries. Your doctor may recommend a hearing test if he suspects an ear related medical condition. Discrepancies will show up on a hearing test if you have an ear infection, hole in your ear drum, ear bone damage, or a growth inside your ear. Knowing how to read your audiogram will help you better understand the process of a hearing test.
Look for a square chart with numbers printed across the top and numbers printed along the left side. The numbers on the top represent frequencies (pitches) and the numbers on the left side represent decibel levels (volume). The purpose of a hearing test is to plot---on the audiogram chart---the softest volume you can hear different pitches or tones at, in each ear.
The frequencies (pitches) tested during a hearing test will range from 250 to 8,000. The decibel levels (volume) on the audiogram will range from -20 to 120.
Find your right ear results and your left ear results. Your right ear is marked by red or black O's and your left ear is marked by blue or black X's. All of the O's should be connected forming a line---running from left to right---across the chart, as should the X's. Looking at an audiogram is like looking at a map showing your range of hearing in both ears.
Read your audiogram from left to right. On the left side are the low pitches or tones you heard during your hearing test---the left side shows your low pitch hearing. On the right side are the high pitches or tones you heard during the test---the right side shows your high pitch hearing.
Look at the decibel levels on the left side of the audiogram to determine if you have hearing loss. The marks (X's and O's) are placed at the softest decibel level you heard each tone at in each ear. Hearing below the 25 decibel line on your chart indicates hearing loss. As you follow the X's and O's across your chart, if they're all above the 25 decibel line, you have normal hearing. It's possible to have portions of your hearing above 25 decibels and portions below.
Hearing between 25 and 50 decibels is a moderate hearing loss; between 50 and 75 decibels is a moderately severe hearing loss; hearing between 75 and 90 decibels is a severe hearing loss; and hearing below 90 decibels is deafness.
Figure out what you're missing if you have a hearing loss. The frequency range tested during a hearing test is the range of tones needed to understand human language. If you have a hearing loss within the frequency range on your audiogram, then you are missing important sounds for speech understanding. The more severe your hearing loss, the more you're missing during conversation.
Part of your hearing test required you to repeat words as you heard them in each ear. You can find the results of this speech understanding test located on the bottom or to the right of your audiogram. These results are recorded in percentages---this gives you the percentage of speech you're missing due to your hearing loss. Results above 95 per cent are normal; anything below 95 per cent and you might want to discuss treatment options for your hearing loss with your hearing health care provider.
Hearing tests vary, some include more detailed testing procedures and results should always be explained to you by the health care provider who performed your hearing test.
Speech understanding percentages below 20 per cent can be a sign of a more serious medical condition and should be brought to the attention of your physician. Hearing tests are only as accurate as the clinician performing the test and the equipment used. Seek a second opinion before proceeding with medical treatment for hearing loss or ear related conditions.
Tips and warnings
- Hearing tests vary, some include more detailed testing procedures and results should always be explained to you by the health care provider who performed your hearing test.
- Speech understanding percentages below 20 per cent can be a sign of a more serious medical condition and should be brought to the attention of your physician.
- Hearing tests are only as accurate as the clinician performing the test and the equipment used. Seek a second opinion before proceeding with medical treatment for hearing loss or ear related conditions.