Understanding an Audiogram
When an audiologist performs a hearing test, the results are delivered in an audiogram. The audiogram is a graphic representation of the sounds a person can hear in relation to decibel level and pitch.
Understanding the results in an audiogram is important for families of children with hearing loss. Learning your child’s level of hearing loss can help as you explore treatment options and services.
The Hearing Test
During a pure-tone hearing test, an audiologist will produce sounds at various pitches and decibel levels. If old enough, the child being tested will respond by raising a hand, pressing a button or with a verbal acknowledgement when the sound is heard. Through this test, the softest sound the child can hear at different frequencies is charted.
In regard to frequency, low frequency sounds may be the “oo” sound or the rumbling of thunder or an earthquake. A high frequency sound could be a whistle or the sound of glass breaking.
As for sound level (in decibels), a soft sound like breathing or a whisper will have a low decibel reading, while an airplane taking off or a lawn mower will have a high decibel output.
When a hearing test is finished, the results are plotted on an audiogram. The audiogram is a graph with frequency (in Hertz) running horizontal and decibel level (dB) running vertical. If two ears were tested individually, the right ear will be represented on the graph with a red “O” and the left ear will be represented by a blue “X.”
If the Xs and Os from an audiogram are primarily toward the bottom of the graph, this signifies a more profound hearing loss. It indicates that the sound level had to be at a significantly loud dB level to be heard by the patient..
If the Xs and Os from an audiogram reside near the top of the chart, this indicates a less severe hearing loss or normal hearing. In this case, the patient was able to hear the softer sounds across different frequencies.
Audiogram Example #1
For this example, the Xs and Os are near the top of the graph, in the grey shaded area. This indicates that this child can hear soft sounds at all of the pitches tested for both ears. This indicates normal hearing for both ears.
Audiogram Example #2
For this example, the Xs and Os are near the bottom of the graph. This indicates that the audiologist had to make the sounds significantly louder, for all the pitches in order for the child to respond that they heard the sound. This hearing loss would be called severe-to-profound and is the same in both ears. This child would likely benefit from hearing aid or cochlear implant use.
Audiogram Example #3
For this example, the red Os are near the top of the graph indicating normal hearing for the right ear. The blue Xs are in the middle of the graph and sloping downward. This is consistent with a moderate-sloping-to-severe hearing loss. Asymmetric hearing loss or hearing loss on just one side is common. This child would likely benefit from a hearing aid on the left side only.
Process the Information
Children with hearing loss often undergo frequent hearing tests to determine the extent of their hearing loss. Even a slight hearing loss can lead to developmental delays. Understanding the resulting audiograms is an important step in determining the best course of action for your child. While you can always ask your audiologist for an explanation of audiogram results, it helps to have a basic awareness of the process so you have a better understanding of your child’s diagnosis.
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If you think your child may not be responding properly to certain sounds or pitches, contact us today and schedule a hearing test. The sooner you get him or her tested, the better.
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