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What is an Audiogram?

When you take a hearing test, the results are displayed on an audiogram. The audiogram is a graph that shows how well you can hear sounds. Pure-tone testing leads to this type of graph, and involves the patient signaling to the administrator every time they perceive a sound. 

Sounds are defined by their intensity, or loudness, and by their frequency, meaning high-pitched or low-pitched. The audiogram reveals the quietest sounds that you can detect at various frequencies. The way your test result line travels on the graph will indicate how severe your hearing loss is. Audiograms will show results for both ears. 

Who Performs Audiograms? 

An audiogram can be administered by an audiologist, hearing instrument specialists, an ear-nose-throat doctor, or an audiology technician. The administrator’s job is to record the results and create the graph. 

hearing test
Audiologist helps a patient during a hearing test

How Long Do Audiograms Take?

Participating in an audiogram will take about 20-30 minutes. Extra time may be needed to discuss your health history and your goals. Hearing tests are done in a quiet or isolated environment. This is to limit the amount of distractions or outside noise that can interfere with the test. Patients can be tested in schools, clinics, hospitals, or specialty hearing centers. 

Why Would Someone Get an Audiogram?

Audiograms are considered the gold standard test for hearing; a person might seek out a hearing test if they are experiencing changes in their hearing ability. A child might receive a hearing test to establish a baseline of their skills. An audiogram can also help diagnose balance issues and find other inner ear problems. Audiograms can be performed for people interested in obtaining hearing aids. They determine the degree or severity of hearing loss, which can then help identify which device to pursue. 

What to Expect During an Audiogram

The patient will wear some type of headphones to listen to different sounds. If headphones cannot be used, sounds can also be played through speakers inside of a sound booth. Hearing can also be tested by a bone conductor. The patient wears this device over the bone behind their ear, and it is held in place by a metal band over the head. When the patient hears a sound, they will raise their hand or push a button. The audiologist will document how loud the sound was. A variety of pitches and sounds will be played for the patient. The patient’s job is to indicate when they hear something, no matter how faint it is. The volume of sound is measured in decibels (dB). The frequency of sound is measured in hertz (Hz).

Possible Audiogram Results 

The audiogram reveals the degree, type, and configuration of your hearing loss. Hearing loss can be conductive (sounds cannot get to the inner ear), sensorineural (deficits of the inner ear or of the nerves to the brain), or mixed (both conductive and sensorineural).

The bottom of the graph image represents loud sounds in decibels, and the top represents soft sounds. Frequency (pitch) on the graph is read from left to right. It starts low (125Hz) on the left and goes to high (8000Hz) on the right. The sounds you detected during testing will be plotted along the chart.  

audiogram hearing test
Example of an audiogram

Since the softest sounds fall near the top of the graph, more marks (successful detection by the patient) in this area indicate more normal hearing. Normal hearing occurs when the softest sounds detected are between -10 and 20 dB. The further your test result line travels down the graph, the more hearing loss is indicated.

Moving Forward

The results of your audiogram, along with the advice of your hearing specialists, will guide your next course of action. Those with mild to profound hearing loss may benefit from getting fitted for medical-grade hearing aids. Online hearing tests and virtual services are now available; in fact, hear.com can support you on your search for hearing solutions.

Dr. Hope Lanter

Dr. Hope Lanter is a lead audiologist at hear.com, a global leader in hearing care and the largest online retailer of medical-grade hearing aids. Dr. Lanter has more than fifteen years of experience as an audiologist, working directly with patients and helping them find the best hearing loss treatments that fit their individual needs. She received her M.A. in audiology from the University of Iowa and her Au.D. in audiology from A.T. Still University of Health Sciences.

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