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How Are Audiometry Tests Interpreted?

a professional audiologist is reviewing a patient's audiogram

Simply put, an audiometry test is a reading of your ability to hear different sounds. You’ve probably had more than one in your life, especially as a child. The purpose of the test itself is to see how well you can hear, utilizing everything from different tones, volumes, and balances that directly relate to the function of your inner ear. This is often referred to as your “hearing threshold.”

If you’ve ever had an audiometry test, it was likely administered by an audiologist, who specializes not only in performing these tests but being able to read and understand them. 

So, what should you expect from an audiometry test, and how are your results interpreted by an audiologist? 

When to get an audiometry test

It’s recommended that adults undergo audiometry tests every 10 years to make sure their hearing is healthy. After the age of 50, that timeframe goes to every three years. This is because hearing loss typically becomes more likely with age. 

But, you don’t have to wait a designated amount of time to have an audiometry test done. If you feel like you’re experiencing hearing loss, or something just seems “off” with the way you’re understanding people or hearing sounds around you, this test is a great way to determine the overall health of your hearing. It typically only takes about 30 minutes, it’s painless, and it can give you a lot of information when it’s interpreted by an experienced audiologist. 

How is an audiometry test read?

An audiometry test is read by an audiologist looking at a graph with two axes. The horizontal axis shows the frequency, starting from a very low pitch (usually 250 Hertz) and going very high (8000 Hz). When you hear different high and low tones throughout the audiogram, it is measuring your ability to hear different frequencies. 

On the vertical axis of the graph, the audiologist measures intensity, or loudness, with the lowest decibel levels at the top, and the highest at the bottom. 

An audiologist will collect responses from your test and put them directly on the graph, usually with a different colored line for each ear. They will mark symbols on the graph for your frequency threshold as well as your intensity threshold. Each dot is plotted on the graph, and then lines are drawn between each one to make it easy to read for both ears. 

Once the test is complete, the audiologist will look at the lines to determine your hearing loss, if any. If the lines overlap in different places, your hearing loss is symmetrical. If they don’t, the audiologist will know that you’re experiencing more hearing loss in one ear than the other. 

What is considered normal? 

Some people get worried if they “miss” certain sounds on an audiometry test, but that’s perfectly fine and normal. A healthy adult is considered to have normal hearing if they regularly hear sounds from 0-25dB at different frequencies (high and low). 

For children, that number is only 0-15dB across the frequency range. Since the graph on most audiology tests goes below 0 dB (usually to -10), there may be some sounds you won’t hear, especially at higher or lower frequencies. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have poor hearing. An audiologist can determine, upon looking at the test, if the frequency levels in which you heard different tones are considered normal, or if you’re experiencing hearing loss in one or both ears. 

Do you need an audiometry test?

Whether you haven’t had an audiometry test in years or you’re experiencing some type of hearing loss that you want to get to the bottom of, there’s no “bad” reason to request an audiometry test. If a test determines that you do have hearing loss, you can start on a treatment plan to restore it that might include the use of a hearing aid. 

Millions of people experience some level of hearing loss in their lifetime. Being able to physically see that loss on paper can make it easier to find a solution to improve your hearing, and give you back some peace of mind whether you’re listening to a conversation, or just trying to watch your favorite television show. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the audiometry test process or you would like to schedule one for yourself (or someone else), feel free to contact Quality Hearing & Audiology Center at 816-233-0022. Our team of professionals will be happy to answer any more questions about not only this type of test but about what you can expect from your visit and the kind of help you can receive from a professional audiologist.