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Degrees of hearing loss and familiar sounds audiogram

Understanding your audiogram

Audiograms help you visualize your hearing abilities. Find out how to read them and what various results mean for your hearing health. Book an appointment to get your audiogram and start your journey to better hearing today.
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What are audiograms?

Visualizing your hearing loss

It may look like something out of your high school math book, but an audiogram is a great way to get a comprehensive look at your hearing abilities. Typically shown with one line for each ear, an audiogram plots a person’s hearing threshold based on frequency and decibel level. Some audiograms also measure speech reception threshold or the softest level of sound in which someone can understand speech. In this case, the space between the hearing and speech reception threshold is referred to as the speech discrimination score.

This clear overview of hearing screening results can help your Hearing Care Professional better diagnose your level of hearing loss and determine the best course of action.

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Degrees of hearing loss

Measuring your hearing abilities

An audiogram can be split into five categories. A hearing threshold plotted between 0 and 20 dB represents a normal range of hearing. The four categories below this threshold indicate some level of hearing loss. The lower the line, the higher the degree of impact on the person’s daily life may be.

Degrees of hearing loss

Mild hearing loss (21-45 dB)

Moderate hearing loss (46-65 dB)

Severe hearing loss (66-90 dB)

Profound hearing loss (91 dB)

Degrees of hearing loss and familiar sounds audiogram
Understanding audiograms

How to read an audiogram

An audiogram is a graph of the softest sounds your ears can hear at different frequencies or pitches.

The horizontal axis represents frequency, showing low to high tones from left to right. Low-pitch sounds, these characteristics are not inherent to pitch and loudness and can vary greatly depending on the source of the sound.

The vertical axis shows loudness in decibels from top to bottom.

Your left ear is indicated by an X and your right ear by a circle. The lower the symbols are on the graph, the louder the sound needs to be for you to hear it.

In addition to your hearing screening results, your Hearing Care Professional will also consider your medical and hearing health history, your individual hearing challenges, and a physical examination of the ear.

Common audiogram symbols

Audiogram symbols are used to represent the different frequencies and levels of hearing loss on an audiogram. They can be combined to create a visual representation of one’s hearing abilities, with the placement of the symbols indicating the frequency and degree of hearing loss. Some common audiogram symbols include:

  • X
    Indicates the hearing threshold for the left ear and is sometimes marked as blue.

  • O
    Indicates the hearing threshold for the right ear and is sometimes marked as red.

  • < >
    Indicates bone conduction thresholds and is often marked with < for the right ear and > for the left ear. This will tell determine how well you hear and if there is a problem in the outer or middle ear.

  • [ ]
    Indicates masked bone conduction. [ is the symbol for the right ear and ] is for the left ear. While screening your hearing we introduce noise to the non-tested ear to make sure the ear being tested hears the tone and is not “cross-heard” by the non-tested ear.
Example of symbols in an audiogram
How to interpret your audiogram

Your hearing in symbols

Blue line with X: Hearing threshold for the left ear.
Blue > symbol: Indicates bone conduction threshold for the left ear.
Red line with O: Hearing threshold for the right ear.
Red [ symbol: Indicates masked bone conduction for the right ear.
Types of audiograms

Here's what audiograms look like

No two hearing loss cases are alike, meaning every audiogram will be different, too. The location of plotted sounds, the shape of the curve and the gap between the right and left ear can all help to indicate a specific type of hearing loss. The method of sound transmission, such as air or bone conduction, can also help narrow down results.

Audiogram examples


Normal hearing audiogram
Sensorineural hearing loss audiogram
Conductive hearing loss audiogram
Mixed hearing loss audiogram
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Understanding your hearing

Where can I get an audiogram test?

Ready to get a comprehensive look at your hearing? With a thorough hearing evaluation, your Hearing Care Professional can visualize your hearing abilities with an audiogram and help you take back your hearing health.
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Audiograms: FAQ

What is an audiogram?

How is hearing loss classified on an audiogram?

How is an audiogram read?

What is the speech reception threshold on an audiogram?

What can cause a hearing loss that is visible on an audiogram?

How long does an audiogram test take?

Next steps to better hearing

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How to treat your hearing loss

Hearing health is one of the building blocks of a happy life. If you can understand how your hearing works and what you can do to protect it, you won't just be doing your ears a favor, you'll be boosting your overall health and well-being, too.
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Why take action on your hearing loss?

Hearing loss not only affects how you hear, but how well your brain is able to function. From protecting your physical and mental well-being to improving your career outlooks, your hearing plays an essential role in it all. With HearUSA by your side, you’ll have all the tools you need to stop the effects of hearing loss and start hearing better today.
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