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Last updated: November 9, 2020

What Does Audiogram Mean?

An audiogram (or audiometric testing) is a type of test that is designed to assess a person’s hearing ability.

Modern audiometric tests evaluate the user’s ability to hear sounds at a variety of different frequencies (tones), ranging from low-frequencies to high frequencies. These frequencies are standardized so that the results of the test will result in an audiogram. Audiograms are a type of graph that shows the “audible threshold” for each frequency—the point at which the noise is loud enough (measured in decibels, dB) that the person being tested can hear it.

Safeopedia Explains Audiogram

Audiometric testing is an important part of modern hearing conservation efforts, and their use as a component of workplace hearing conservation programs is required by OHS agencies around the world.

The use of audiometry is important in any workplace in which noise exposure levels are high enough that there is a significant risk that employees may suffer from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). In cases where such a risk exists, employers are obligated to monitor employees for hearing loss, with audiometric testing being the means through which this monitoring is performed.

To comply with OHS standards, workplace audiometric testing programs must be overseen by a qualified professional, such as a licensed or certified audiologist, otolaryngologist, or other physicians. The testing itself must be conducted by either one of the above types of professions or by a certified audiometric testing technician.

One of the most important aspects of any audiometric testing program is the baseline audiogram. A baseline audiogram is the record of the individual’s hearing ability as measured by their first workplace hearing test. After subsequent hearing tests, the employee’s new results will be compared against the baseline audiogram in order to evaluate whether the employee’s hearing has declined. A decline in any aspect of an individual’s hearing ability is referred to as a “threshold shift”.

Baseline audiograms are a necessary part of hearing conservation programs because they provide an initial testing benchmark. Not all adults hear equally well, so it is impossible to evaluate them all against a standardized “healthy” hearing level—each adult must be evaluated against themselves. The use of audiograms allows hearing levels to be easily compared against each other by simple visual inspection, and the presence of significant discrepancies—which OSHA calls "standard threshold shifts"—is used as evidence that workplace-related hearing loss may have occurred.


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