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What is an audiogram?

An audiogram is a graphic representation of audiometric data. It is a picture of your hearing ability. The audiogram is used because it provides a convenient way to visualize hearing ability on a scale related to the “normal” range of hearing. The vertical lines on an audiogram represent pitch or frequency. Low frequencies start on the left side of the graph and each line to the right represents a higher frequency. Moving from left to right on an audiogram would be consistent with moving from left to right on a piano (low to high pitches). The horizontal lines on an audiogram represent loudness or intensity. The zero decibel (dB) line is located at the top of the audiogram and represents a barely audible sound. Each line below represents a louder and louder sound. During the hearing test, the Audiologist will try to determine your threshold for hearing, or the softest sound you can hear. At each test frequency, your threshold will be marked on the audiogram at the softest level that you respond reliably.

Audiology Services

ABR and Stacked ABR (Audiology Brainstem Response)
Adult Acoustic Immittance
ENG Instructions
Otoacoustic Emissions
Pediatric Hearing Test
Pediatric Acoustic Immittance

Description of Hearing Test:

The objective of any hearing test is to measure your threshold for tones and speech. During the hearing test, the Audiologist will place foam earphones in each ear and a headband around your forehead to hold a bone conductor in place. The earphones deliver sound through the air (sound waves) and the bone conductor delivers sound through small bone vibrations. You will most likely not feel the vibration of the bone conductor during the test. When the test starts, you will be instructed to respond each time you hear a soft tone presented in either ear. In addition, you may hear occasionally a static noise in the background of either ear that should be ignored. This is called masking noise and is used to isolate one ear at a time for accurate measurements. The Audiologist will measure your threshold for tones over a range of frequencies. Typically, the range is 250 to 8000 Hz because this encompasses the frequency range necessary to understand speech. Speech testing includes two tests. First, the Speech Reception Threshold (SRT) test is used to measure the lowest level at which you can repeat words. It is common to use two-syllable words with equal stress on each word for the SRT. The second speech test, Speech Discrimination (SD), is used to assess your ability to understand and repeat single-syllable words presented at a loud volume. The SD test is beneficial because it measures the amount of speech distortion you may be experiencing. At the conclusion of the hearing test, the audiologist will review the results and recommendations and answer any questions you may have about the test.


Reference the animation to the right to learn more about the audiogram, hearing loss and an audiogram can assist with determining cochlear implant candidates.

Animation has audio.
Turn on your speakers of headphones.

Loudness Scale

Listed below on the left are several common sounds with the corresponding decibel (dB) output listed on the right. All values are approximations.

Whisper 30
Normal Conversation, Dishwasher 60
Vacuum Cleaner 70
Subway, Busy Street 80
Lawn Mower 90
Chain Saw, Snow Mobile 100
Rock Concert 120
Jackhammer 130
Gunfire, Jet Engine 140
Rock Music, Peak 150

Types of Hearing Loss

Sensorineural - This term describes hearing loss caused by a problem in the inner ear or the nerve that sends signals to the brain.

Conductive - This term describes hearing loss due to a problem with the portion of the middle ear that conducts sound from the outer ear canal to the inner ear. In these cases, the inner ear is not affected.

Mixed - This term describes hearing loss with a sensorineural and conductive component. Mixed hearing loss is caused by a problem with the conduction of sound through the middle ear and an inner ear or nerve loss.

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1900 University Avenue, Suite 101
E. Palo Alto, CA 94303
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California Ear Institute