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When you get your hearing tested by an audiologist, the appointment will typically consist of two parts. First, they'll ask about your lifestyle to better understand any mitigating factors in your hearing impairment. Next, they'll test your hearing.

The results of this test are expressed in the form of a chart known as an audiogram. Examining this chart gives the audiologist a better idea of what's happening with your ears. This also gives them a starting point for treatment. 

Because audiologists are responsible for both interpreting and communicating audiograms to their clients, you don't typically need to know how to read one. However, that isn't to say that the knowledge isn't useful. It can still be valuable for you to know how to read and interpret your audiometry results on your own. 

How Audiograms Are Created

An audiogram may either be created manually by your audiologist or automatically based on your responses to a pure tone audiometry test.  The audiologist starts by playing a specific sound to you, alternating between ears. Each sound typically starts below 20 dB, increasing in intensity until you indicate that you can hear it. 

Understanding the Components of an Audiogram

An audiogram consists of several components:

The Y-axis

The Y-axis represents amplitude, expressed in decibels (dB). This is the measure of a sound's loudness and intensity. Humans can typically hear sounds at 75dB or lower without risking permanent hearing loss.  The axis counts down from 120 dB to 0 dB as you move from bottom to top, though some audiograms go as low as -10 dB. 

The X-axis

The X-axis represents frequency, expressed in Hertz (Hz). Higher-frequency sounds are at the right end of the axis, while low-frequency sounds are at the left. Typically, an audiogram will range from 20 Hz on the left to around 3-6K Hz at the right.  Humans cannot typically hear frequencies lower than 20 Hz or higher than 20,00 Hz. 
audiogram graph

Measurements for Each Ear

Each audiogram also features two lines, each of which represents one of your ears. Typically, the red line represents your right ear, and the blue line represents your left. 

The Normal Hearing Threshold

At the top of each audiogram is a section representing the normal threshold for human hearing and how your audiologist measures the severity of your hearing loss. The greater the deviation from the normal threshold, the more severe your hearing loss. 

See our frequently-asked questions to learn more about audiology, hearing care, and hearing tests.

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