Your hearing care professional determines whether or not a hearing loss is present with the help of a series of hearing tests. If no hearing loss is present, you will not need further help. In the case where a hearing loss is present, the nature and degree of your hearing loss is determined for each ear and entered in an audiogram.

How to read your hearing test

An audiogram is a graph of the softest sounds you can hear. The graph is laid out with low to high frequencies (low to high pitches) going from left to right, and from soft sounds on the top to very loud sounds on the bottom.


Frequency, or pitch, is measured in Hertz (Hz). Frequencies range from low-pitch to high-pitch and read from left to right on the audiogram. Each vertical line represents a different frequency. The ones tested most often are 250, 500, 1000, 2000, 4000 and 8000 Hz.


The intensity is measured in decibels (dB) and relates to how loud or soft a sound is. Each horizontal line represents a different intensity level. The softest sounds are at the top of the audiogram and the loudest sounds at the bottom. Each mark on your hearing test represents the softest sounds you can hear. The softest intensity tested is typically 0 dB and the loudest is 120 dB.

Speech testing

Speech discrimination or word recognition ability is scored as a percentage. This score indicates how well a list of words could be repeated and represents how distinctly you hear speech. The words are presented via headphones at a comfortable volume level with no background noise present.

Degrees of hearing loss

Hearing loss is classified in degrees of hearing from normal to profound. The hearing threshold, or the softest a sound was heard at a specific frequency determines the classification of hearing loss.

When hearing loss is due to problems with the ear canal, ear drum or the middle ear and its little bones (malleus, incus and stapes) it is a conductive hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) results when hearing loss is due to problems of the inner ear, also referred to as nerve-related hearing loss.

Your audiogram is a picture of your hearing at a single point in time. You should have your hearing tested regularly so you can compare your hearing test results from year to year and determine whether your hearing is remaining stable, or worsening over time.