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Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery

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Understanding Your Audiogram

The audiogram is a graphical display of the hearing test. The two main components that are graphed are frequency and intensity. These results are displayed for each ear. When you had your hearing tested, the audiologist was determining the softest sound you could hear at each specific frequency.

Frequency

Frequency or pitch is measured in Hertz (Hz). Frequencies range from low-pitch to high-pitch and read from left to right on the audiogram. Each vertical line represents a different frequency. The ones used most often during testing are 250, 500, 1000, 2000, 4000 and 8000 Hz.

Intensity

The intensity is measured in decibels (dB). The intensity relates to how loud or soft a sound is. Each horizontal line represents a different intensity level. The softest sounds are at the top of the chart and the loudest sounds at the bottom. Each mark on an individual’s hearing test would represent the softest sounds they could hear. The softest intensity tested is typically 0 dB and the loudest is 120 dB.

Right Ear - Left Ear

The right ear is graphed with either a circle or triangle when testing is performed using headphones. The left ear is graphed with an X or a square when headphones are used. These responses would all represent the air conduction results of either the right or left ear.

Another symbol used when testing is performed through the speakers or in the soundfield is S. This would represent the response of at least one ear or the response of the better hearing ear.

Other symbols seen on the audiogram may depict the responses obtained during bone conduction testing. The right ear is graphed with < or [ and the left ear with > or ]. These responses can help determine whether a hearing loss is sensorineural or conductive.

Speech Testing

Speech discrimination or word recognition ability is scored as a percentage. This score represents how well a list of words could be repeated. The words are presented via headphones at a comfortable volume level with no background noise present.

Degrees of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is classified in degrees of hearing from normal to profound. This classification is determined by the hearing threshold (or the softest a sound was heard at a specific frequency).

Classification of Hearing Loss

Hearing Threshold

Normal hearing

0 to 20 dB

Mild

21 to 40 dB

Moderate

41 to 55 dB

Moderately-severe

56 to 70 dB

Severe

71 to 90 dB

Profound

91+ dB