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The Audiogram: A Guide to Your Hearing

When we test your hearing at Shea Clinic Ear Nose & Throat or Shea Hearing Aid Center, the first part of the examination is usually a test of your hearing sensitivity. Our licensed professionals use different tones, from low-pitched to high-pitched, to determine the softest level at which our patients hear various sounds.

The results of the hearing test are plotted on an audiogram (see below). The audiogram shows pitch across the top, from low-frequency (on the left side) to high-frequency (on the right). The loudness is shown vertically, from very soft (at the top) to very loud (at the bottom).

The colors indicate when a person’s hearing sensitivity should cause no hearing difficulties (green), occasional difficulties (yellow) and frequent difficulties (red). The shaded area of the audiogram shows the range of speech sounds.

Circles represent scores for the right ear, and Xs are used for the left ear. The scores are plotted on the audiogram and compared to results obtained from persons with normal hearing (indicated by the unshaded area at the top). Speech sounds at an average speech level may also be plotted, to give some information about which sounds are audible to the listener.

The audiogram below also shows the results of a hearing test of someone with a high-frequency loss in the right ear and a mild to moderate loss in the left ear.

This person has normal hearing in the right ear for many sounds (thresholds are in the green area). However, he does have a mild hearing loss for high frequencies (thresholds are in the yellow area). This is a common pattern for people who gradually develop hearing loss over many years.

This person will hear many—even most—of the sounds around him. But because the clarity of speech comes from high-pitched sounds, sometimes speech may sound unclear or mumbled. He may say, “I can hear when someone talks, but I can’t always understand the words.” This pattern of hearing loss often goes undetected, especially by the person with the loss, because the hearing difficulties seem inconsistent.

That’s because many sounds (such as a door closing), background noise, and the loudness of speech may still seem normal. Listening to one person in a quiet setting may be relatively easy. However, he or she will have noticeable difficulties if unable to see the person talking, is in a noisy room, or if several people are talking.

What kind of difficulties? This person will still hear most of conversational speech, but words like “care, share and fair” may sound the same because he or she doesn’t hear the first consonant of those words.

For the left ear, this person will be unable to hear or understand speech unless it is amplified. Someone with hearing such as this in both ears might not even know when someone is talking. Using the telephone is a problem, and television has to be much louder than normal.

Your own hearing pattern is different than this example, of course. Knowing your own hearing pattern can help you understand your specific hearing problems. Is a woman’s voice harder to understand than a man’s? Can you understand in a quiet setting, but not in a noisy one? Do you do better on a telephone than face-to-face?

The professionals at Shea Clinic Ear Nose & Throat and Shea Hearing Aid Center would be happy to review your hearing pattern with you during your next visit.

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