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How to Read An Audiogram (Hearing Test)

How to Read An Audiogram

Are you tired of feeling lost in a sea of sound? Do conversations seem muffled, and voices blend together into indistinguishable whispers? It may be time to decode the secrets hidden within an audiogram. In this blog post, we will guide you through the fascinating world of hearing tests, showing you how to read an audiogram like a pro.

From deciphering those mysterious symbols to understanding what they mean for your hearing health, get ready to embark on a journey towards clearer communication and better quality of life. So grab your favourite pair of headphones, and let’s dive deep into the realm of audiology!

What is an Audiogram?

An Audiogram is a visual representation of the results of a hearing test, also known as an audiogram. An audiologist typically conducts this test, and it measures your ability to hear different frequencies or pitches of sound.

The horizontal axis on an audiogram represents the frequency of sounds, measured in Hertz (Hz). The higher the number on the axis, the higher the pitch of the sound. Typically, human speech falls between 250 Hz to 8000 Hz.

The vertical axis represents the loudness or intensity of sounds, measured in decibels (dB). The top of the graph indicates very soft sounds, while the bottom shows very loud sounds. Human speech is usually around 60 dB.

An audiogram consists of several symbols and markings that can help you understand your hearing loss. These symbols include circles, Xs, and arrows.

Circles represent air conduction testing results, which are obtained using headphones or inserts placed in your ears. The results for each ear are represented by red circles for your right ear and blue circles for your left ear.

Xs represent bone conduction testing results, which are obtained by placing a small device behind your ear called a bone vibrator. These results are marked with red Xs for your right ear and blue Xs for your left ear.

Why is it important to get your hearing tested?

There are many reasons why it is important to get your hearing tested regularly. In this section, we will discuss the importance of getting your hearing tested and how it can benefit your overall health and well-being.

  1. Early Detection of Hearing Loss

One of the main reasons to get your hearing tested is to detect any signs of hearing loss as early as possible. Many people assume that their hearing is fine until they start experiencing noticeable difficulties in understanding conversations or participating in activities that require auditory abilities.

However, by the time these symptoms become apparent, irreversible damage may have already occurred. Regular testing can help identify any changes in your hearing and allow for early intervention and treatment before the problem becomes more severe.

  1. Prevent Further Damage

If left untreated, even a mild case of hearing loss can worsen over time due to strain on the remaining healthy parts of the ear. Regular testing can catch minor issues before they develop into more significant problems and prevent further damage from occurring.

  1. Improved Quality of Life

Hearing loss affects not only one’s ability to communicate but also their overall quality of life. Untreated hearing loss can lead to social isolation, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. By getting regular hearing tests and addressing any problems early on, you can maintain good communication skills and prevent potential emotional distress.

How does an audiogram work?

An audiogram is a visual representation of your hearing ability, measured by the results of a hearing test. The test involves listening to a series of tones at varying frequencies and volumes and indicating when you can hear them.

This information is then plotted on an audiogram chart, which helps healthcare professionals diagnose any potential hearing loss.

So, how exactly does an audiogram work? Let’s break it down step by step:

  1. Preparation: Before the test begins, the audiologist or hearing specialist will ensure that you are comfortable and relaxed. They will also explain the testing process and answer any questions you may have.
  2. Placement of headphones: You will be asked to wear headphones that are connected to an audiometer – a machine used for measuring hearing ability. The headphones block out external noise and allow for precise delivery of sounds directly into your ears.
  3. Familiarization with tones: At first, you will be played some familiar sounds, such as speech or music to help you become accustomed to the testing procedure.
  4. Pure tone testing: Once you are comfortable with the setup, pure tone testing begins. This involves listening to tones at different frequencies (pitch) and volumes (loudness). The techniques start at a low volume and gradually get louder until the listener can hear them.
  5. Response button: As soon as you hear each tone, you will be instructed to press a response button or raise your hand to indicate that you have listened to it.

Understanding the symbols and numbers on an audiogram

An audiogram is a visual representation of the results of a hearing test. It displays various characters and numbers that provide important information about an individual’s hearing ability. Understanding these symbols and digits is essential in interpreting the results of an audiogram accurately.

Firstly, let’s discuss the different types of symbols used on an audiogram. The most common symbol used is a circle, which represents the right ear, and an X, which means the left ear. These symbols are usually referred to as “ear markers” and are used to plot the test results for each ear separately.

The next set of symbols that you may encounter on an audiogram are called “threshold symbols.” They represent different sound frequencies or pitches tested during the hearing exam, ranging from low-pitched sounds (on the left) to high-pitched sounds (on the right). These threshold symbols can either be in red or blue colour, with red representing air conduction testing and blue representing bone conduction testing.

Air conduction testing involves presenting sounds through headphones or speakers directly into your ears via air vibrations. This type of testing helps determine how well your outer, middle, and inner ear processes sound. On the other hand, bone conduction testing involves transmitting sounds through a small device placed behind your ear called a bone vibrator. This method bypasses problems in your outer or middle ear and tests how well your inner ear responds to sound.

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Deciphering the different frequencies and decibels

When looking at an audiogram, it can be overwhelming to try and decipher the different frequencies and decibels represented on the graph. However, understanding these concepts is crucial in interpreting your hearing test results accurately.

Frequency refers to the pitch of a sound, measured in Hertz (Hz). Our ears are capable of hearing sounds with frequencies ranging from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. The lower end of this range represents low-pitched sounds, such as a bass or a male voice, while the higher end represents high-pitched sounds, like bird songs or female voices.

On an audiogram, frequency is plotted along the horizontal axis from left to right. The further left on the graph means a lower frequency, while the other right means a higher frequency. Each vertical line on the chart represents a specific frequency level in octaves (a doubling or halving of frequency). For example, if you see that 250 Hz is plotted on your audiogram, then it means that you were tested for frequencies within that octave range – specifically between 125 Hz and 500 Hz.

Decibels (dB) refer to the loudness or intensity of sound. It is important to note that decibel levels are measured logarithmically rather than linearly. This means that every increase of 10 dB represents a sound that is ten times louder than before. For instance, a sound at 80 dB would be ten times more audible than one at 70 dB.

Interpreting the results of your audiogram

Interpreting the results of your audiogram is an essential step in understanding your hearing health. An audiogram, also known as a hearing test, is a graph that displays the results of your hearing evaluation. It measures how well you can hear different frequencies and intensities of sound.

The first thing to understand when interpreting your audiogram is the axes of the graph. The horizontal axis represents the frequency or pitch of sound in Hertz (Hz), while the vertical axis represents intensity or loudness measured in decibels (dB). The lower portion of the graph represents low-frequency sounds, such as bass tones, while the higher amount represents high-frequency sounds, like bird chirps or beeping alarms.

The next important factor to consider is the shape of your audiogram. A normal hearing range falls within 0-20 dB across all frequencies, creating a flat line on the graph. However, if there are variations in this line, it may indicate potential hearing loss.

If there are dips or notches in certain areas on the graph, it could suggest specific types of hearing loss. For example, a drop at higher frequencies indicates noise-induced hearing loss from exposure to loud noises over time. On the other hand, a notch at lower frequencies may mean age-related hearing loss.

Another crucial aspect to consider when reading an audiogram is understanding speech discrimination scores (SDS). This score measures how well you can understand speech at various volume levels and helps identify any issues with word recognition or clarity.

What do abnormal results mean?

When you receive the results of your hearing test, it is important to understand what they mean. Abnormal results can indicate a potential issue with your hearing and may require further evaluation or treatment. Here are some factors to consider when interpreting abnormal audiogram results:

  1. Degree of Hearing Loss:
    The degree of hearing loss refers to the severity of impairment in your hearing abilities. Your audiologist will categorize your results into four levels: mild, moderate, severe, and profound. Mild hearing loss means you have difficulty understanding soft speech and may miss certain words or sounds in noisy environments. Average hearing loss indicates difficulty understanding normal conversations without amplification. Severe hearing loss means you can only hear loud noises and struggle to communicate even with amplification. Profound hearing loss refers to almost complete deafness.
  2. Type of Hearing Loss:
    There are three types of hearing loss – conductive, sensorineural, and mixed. Conductive hearing loss is caused by problems in the outer or middle ear, such as earwax buildup or damage to the eardrum or tiny bones (ossicles). Sensorineural hearing loss occurs due to injury in the inner ear (cochlea) or nerve pathways that transmit sound signals to the brain. Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both conductive and sensorineural causes.

Tips for maintaining good hearing health

Maintaining good hearing health is essential for overall well-being and quality of life. It can also help prevent or delay age-related hearing loss. Here are some tips to help you maintain good hearing health:

  1. Protect your ears from loud noises: Exposure to loud noises, whether it is occupational or recreational, can cause damage to the hair cells in the inner ear, leading to permanent hearing loss. It is important to wear earplugs or earmuffs when exposed to loud noises such as concerts, sporting events, and power tools.
  2. Avoid using cotton swabs in your ears: Many people use cotton swabs to clean their ears, but this can actually do more harm than good. Cotton swabs can push wax deeper into the ear canal, leading to a blockage and potential damage to the eardrum.
  3. Practice proper ear hygiene: Keeping your ears clean is an important part of maintaining good hearing health. However, it is crucial not to insert anything into the ear canal as it can cause injury or infection. Instead, gently wipe the outer part of your ears with a soft cloth.
  4. Get regular check-ups with an audiologist: Just like you visit a dentist for regular check-ups, it is vital to see an audiologist for routine hearing tests. This will help identify any changes in your hearing and allow for early detection and treatment if necessary.