When your hearing is tested, your hearing healthcare professional will plot the results of your behavioral pure-tone assessment on a graph called an audiogram. While there are many other evaluations that may be completed during a full audiological assessment, the results of pure-tone measurements typically are the most important for determining hearing aid candidacy and understanding the cause of your hearing impairment. Below is a sample graph with the categories (or severity) of hearing loss labeled on the right. Note that your hearing is evaluated by frequency (or pitch) in Hertz (Hz) and by decibel (dB) level (loudness).
This graph is standard for hearing healthcare providers to record your responses to sound. Pitch is labeled on the horizontal axis and intensity (loudness) is labeled on the vertical axis. The softest level to which you respond consistently will be indicated on the graph at each pitch evaluated. Standard symbols used to indicate your responses include an ‘O’ for your right ear responses and an ‘X’ for your left ear responses. Your results may not fall solely into a single category (mild, moderate, severe, etc.) but may change across low (125-500 Hz), mid (750-2000 Hz), and high (3000-8000 Hz) pitches. These X’s and O’s will indicate, behaviorally, how your entire hearing system from your outer visible ear to your inner organ of hearing are functioning.
You may also note angle brackets (< or >) and brackets ([ or ]) on your graph. These symbols will only be present if testing was completed to determine solely how your inner ear is functioning. This testing may or may not be necessary to determine type and degree of hearing impairment. Your hearing healthcare provider will make that call. Your results may also be color-coded with red markings for right ear results and blue markings for left ear results. Color-coding is not necessary to plot responses, but may make it easier to see in graph form.
Your hearing healthcare provider should thoroughly discuss the implications of your assessment results with you in detail. Depending on your responses, you may or may not need rehabilitation via hearing aids. Your results will also help determine what type and style of hearing aid would suit you most. While your tastes will also be a consideration in choosing a hearing aid, your hearing impairment should be the main consideration. Some styles will suit specific degrees of hearing loss better. It is important to fully understand your results. If you are having difficulty reading your audiogram, contact your provider.