How Patients Can Easily Understand Their Audiogram Results
If you’ve ever been to an audiogram appointment, you’re familiar with the various tests and results you are presented with at the end. Graphs scattered with lines and curves all seem like an unfamiliar language to an untrained eye. An audiologist will teach you to interpret your results during your appointment. You may be wondering, “why do I need to learn how to read my audiogram”?
During any consultation, especially medical, there is a lot of new information to digest, so feeling confident in navigating your results following your appointment will help you get your head around your results and your possible treatment plan. If you find out there is hearing loss, this can also be overwhelming, making it difficult to remember the details of your results. To ensure you feel confident after leaving your appointment, Attune Hearing has put together a helpful guide on how you can lead your audiogram results if you wish to revisit them.
How is Our Hearing Tested?
When you go in for a full hearing test, your test is conducted by a health professional called an Audiologist. These hearing specialists have a minimum of at least five years of university study and the knowledge to deal with a range of hearing issues confidently.
What Happens During a Hearing Test?
At the beginning of your hearing test, the Audiologist will set you up comfortably in a sound-proof booth with headphones over your ears or earbuds in your ears. In your test, you’ll need a little concentration, which is why the soundproof booth comes in handy.
Once ready, you will hear beeps that will range in volume and pitch to test the range of your hearing. Every time you hear a beep, you are to push a button, no matter how soft it seems to be. As our hearing frequencies are so broad, there are different types of hearing tests available to you.
During your test, the softest sounds heard at each pitch is what’s called your hearing thresholds. Your Audiologist records these on a graph called an audiogram.
How to Understand an Audiogram
An audiogram is a graph that records your hearing test results. On the graph is the volume and pitch of the sounds. Volume or loudness is measured on the vertical axis, with soft sounds shown at the top of the page, with the volume getting louder as you go down the page.
Although some can find the loudest beeps uncomfortable, this indicates that you have good hearing. Be rest assured that your Audiologist will ensure your test doesn’t get any more uncomfortable with your feedback.
The pitch or frequency is displayed on the horizontal axis, with the deeper lower pitch sounds found on the left of the page. As you go across to the right of the page, the pitch increases and gets higher.
To help paint a clearer picture, we’ll identify where you would find some everyday noises on the audiogram. For example, if you were to look at an audiogram, you could discover rustling leaves at the top of the graph and loud sounds like a motorbike engine at the bottom. Pitch wise, a dog barking would be on the left, and chirping birds would be on the right.
The Steps to Understanding Your Audiology Report
1. Determine which ear has hearing loss
With your audiology report in front of you, you want to look at the noughts and crosses.
The noughts represent the thresholds for the right ear. These might be shown in red.
The crosses are the thresholds for the left ear and are usually shown in blue.
As you can see on our example audiologist report above, the left ear crosses are placed higher on the page, indicating that the hearing for this ear is close to normal. The right ear shown through the noughts is lower on the page but shows some evidence of hearing loss. This is because the sounds above the noughts and crosses are sounds you couldn’t hear during your test, with the sounds below the noughts and crosses being the sounds you could hear.
2. Understand how much hearing loss you have
To understand the degree of hearing loss you may have, you’ll need to look towards the thresholds at the top of the page on your audiologist report. Here these thresholds show normal hearing, as all the sounds can be detected at soft levels.
The thresholds at the bottom of the page show more profound hearing loss, as all the sounds are detected at the loudest levels. If yours falls in between the thresholds, this shows there could be mild, moderate or severe hearing loss.
In our audiograph example above, the left ear, as shown as crosses, shows a mild hearing loss, and the right ear shown as noughts show moderate to severe hearing loss. During your consultation, your audiologist will advise you about the hearing thresholds for each ear at the end of the hearing test.
3. Learn which sounds are affected
Each of your ears can have different levels of hearing loss, including pitch. In some people, the low pitch (bass) might differ from the high pitch (treble). This is where the boomerang you can see on your graph is displayed and becomes important to understand.
The boomerang’s shaded areas
The shaded areas of the boomerang show the speech range or the area where the sounds of speech are displayed as they happen in everyday conversation when in quiet situations. This result helps audiologists understand how you can have hearing loss but still hear some sounds and not others.
Vowels are the low pitch or bass sounds of speech
These also include other sounds like m and n, shown on the left end of the boomerang, which mainly starts at 40dB volume.
Consonants are the high pitch/treble sounds of speech
This also includes p, k, ch, and high pitches like f and th. These sounds help clarify the speech we listen to in everyday life. On the right end of the boomerang, these treble sounds are shown, which extend up higher on the volume scale starting from 20dB.
Lower pitch sounds are heard louder than high pitch
Even with mild hearing loss for low pitches, some bass sounds can still be heard. The high pitch sounds are very soft and softer than lower pitch sounds, so even a mild hearing loss for high pitches can make the treble sounds unheard.
Looking back at our example, the left ear shows normal hearing for the low pitches (bass sounds) and a mild hearing loss only for the high pitches (treble sounds). This indicates the left ear won’t be as good at picking up on soft high pitches like f and th, making speech less clear.
Looking now at the right ear, you can see a moderate hearing loss for the low pitches (bass) and a severe hearing loss for the high pitches (treble). The right ear also has thresholds below the entire speech boomerang, revealing it won’t hear average speech.
4. Knowing which part of the ear is affected
Finally, you’ll want to know which part of your ear is affected if you experience hearing loss. You’ll see a range of arrows and brackets on the graph to figure this out. These show you and your audiologist the hearing you have in your inner ear, as well as the hearing nerve and connections.
In your hearing test, there you’ll also be wearing a headband that your audiologist will place on your head, and you’ll be asked to push the button each time you hear a beep again. Your audiologist will record the softest sounds at each pitch again, where you’ll be able to find out where along the ear and hearing pathway the problem lies.
As seen in our audiology graph above, the arrows and brackets are close to the noughts and crosses, which indicates the problem is likely in the inner ear. This is likely a sign of permanent hearing loss, where a hearing aid can help. Causes of permanent hearing loss are usually due to traumatic noise exposure and aging, which both commonly damage the inner ear.
If your arrows and crosses are higher up on the page compared with the noughts and crosses, the problem in your ear is likely to be caused by blockages such as a build-up of ear wax or a blockage behind the eardrum. The good news is that these can often be remedied by visiting your local General Practitioner, so it’s essential to book an appointment following your hearing test.
How Attune Hearing Can Help
Undergoing a full hearing test with an audiologist is the concrete step to finding out if you have hearing loss and learning more about the degree and which ears are affected. With the help of your audiologist, you may determine your hearing loss may be due to a blocked ear, which you can seek the appropriate medical attention following your appointment.
If you find out you have hearing loss, it may be overwhelming. However, with the proper support and help from your audiologist, you’ll be able to make treatment plans that could include hearing aids to improve your hearing ability. In addition, a reputable audiologist will be happy to guide you along the way to better hearing health and answer any questions or concerns you may have.
At Attune Hearing, we are here to help you make the best decisions regarding your hearing health. If any questions have emerged during this article, Attune’s services can assist you.
If you’d like to discuss options for further assessment and treatment with one of our skilled and friendly Audiologists, contact us on 1300 736 702 or book online at your next convenience.