Hearing: How Accurate Are Audiograms?

a hearing loss patient experiencing an audiogram

Hearing loss is a very common issue, especially as we get older. As such, there are a wide range of medical and technical solutions which are used to target the causes and mitigate the symptoms of hearing loss. So that those affected by it needn’t experience the negative consequences that can occur when their hearing loss goes undiagnosed and untreated. Currently hearing loss affects around one in eight Americans, That’s around 30 million people. Thirteen percent of the US population ages 12 and older has hearing loss in both ears, based on standard hearing examinations. And that’s just the cases we know about.

The unfortunate truth is that many people don’t even realize that they’re affected by hearing loss at all because of the very slow and incremental nature of the condition. By the time many of us notice the signs of hearing loss it may already have become quite severe. 

The good news is that whatever the cause or extent of your hearing aid, an audiologist can help. The first thing they will usually do, after carrying out some checks into your family and medical history, is a test called an audiogram. 

What is an audiogram?

An audiogram is one of the most important tests an audiologist will carry out to determine the extent of your hearing loss. The data it yields is imperative to their ability to provide you with an effective solution as it is used to calibrate your hearing aid. As such, it’s vital that your audiogram provide an accurate overview of your hearing including which frequencies are inside or outside of your ability to hear.

How does an audiogram work?

Your audiologist will usually be with you in the room while they use an audiometer- a machine that plays sounds to you via soundproof headphones. Your audiologist will play a series of sounds, usually tones and speech, at different intervals into one ear then the other. You will be expected to react when you hear each sound, usually by pressing a button when you’re able to hear a frequency.

How accurate is an audiogram?

Because an audiogram covers a full range of frequencies it has the potential to be highly accurate. Handheld audiometers of this kind have a sensitivity of 92% and a specificity of 94% when it comes to detecting sensorineural hearing impairment.

The only unknown variable, then, is you. It’s absolutely essential that you be honest with yourself when you’re played the sounds and tones of an audiogram. Don’t be tempted to click the button if you can’t hear the frequency. The mind can sometimes play tricks on you if you're anticipating hearing a sound. Don’t click that button unless you’re absolutely certain that you hear the sound from the audiometer.

It’s much better to find out that your hearing loss is more severe than you thought and for your audiologist to act accordingly than for you to score higher on the test and miss out on some of the potential benefits of a hearing instrument. 

Are there any other tests my audiologist may carry out?

An audiogram is one of several tests your audiologist may carry out at your first appointment. They may also carry out an inspection of your ear canal and drum using a tool called an otoscope. This will help them to ensure that there is no excessive wax buildup of blockage of the inner ear. 

They may also carry out a tympanometry test. This involves a tiny amount of pressure being placed on the eardrum. This is used to evaluate your middle ear function and ensure that there is nothing impinging on the eardrum and preventing it from moving freely. Assuming that nothing is found during these tests, the data from your audiogram will be the main contributing factor in influencing what your audiologist does next. Which is why it’s so vital that the data be accurate.

How we can help

At Peninsula Hearing, we’re passionate about helping those affected by hearing loss find affordable solutions that are tailored to their unique needs. Our team of skilled audiologists will work with you to accurately determine the extent of your hearing loss using an audiogram and the other tests mentioned above. They will use this data to help you choose and recommend a hearing aid that is calibrated to suit your needs, budget and lifestyle. Want to know more about the services we offer? Contact us today at 360-697-3061 for Poulsbo and 360-379-5458 for Port Townsend.