Every person’s hearing is different, so what is “normal” in terms of hearing well and hearing loss?
Over time, you have likely noticed that no two people have exactly the same hearing ability. For example, you might have a friend who easily hears high-pitched sounds that you have to strain to hear, even if neither of you has been diagnosed with hearing loss.
The truth is that every person’s hearing ability is different. Just as each person has a unique fingerprint, each person’s hearing is slightly different. So, if every person’s hearing is different, how do we know what is considered “normal” for hearing well, and how do we determine what is considered hearing loss? Can two people have different hearing abilities, yet both be considered to have “normal” hearing?
The standards for normal hearing ability and hearing loss were established in the early twentieth century. At the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago, Illinois, researchers tested thousands of people’s hearing ability. This testing allowed them to establish what is known as audiometric zero. Audiometric zero is the level of a pure tone of a given frequency that is minimally detectable by a person with normal hearing.
By testing thousands of individuals at the World’s Fair, researchers were able to establish audiometric zero. They took an average of the lowest level that test participants could hear at particular frequencies, which allowed researchers to determine what is considered “normal hearing” and what is considered “hearing loss.” The information from this study also enabled researchers to create a standardized formula that can be used to determine whether an individual has normal hearing or hearing loss.
Normal hearing is defined by a range of decibel levels, starting at audiometric zero. Audiometric zero is known as 0 dBHL (Decibel Hearing Level). Normal hearing includes the range from 0 to 20 dBHL, so if a person’s hearing threshold (the level that is minimally detectable) is between 0 and 20 dBHL, the person has normal hearing ability. If the person’s hearing threshold is over 20 dBHL, they are considered to have hearing loss. Once it is established that a person has hearing loss, a hearing professional can determine the best treatment options for that individual.
Interestingly, many people have different hearing thresholds at different sound frequencies. A person may test normal at some frequencies, yet their hearing test scores may indicate hearing loss at other frequencies. Again, each person’s hearing ability is different. This makes it essential to be regularly tested by a hearing professional so any hearing loss can be treated. Thanks to modern hearing loss treatments, including hearing aids, your treatment can be customized to accommodate your unique hearing ability, hearing loss, and individual needs.
If you believe that you or a loved one may be experiencing hearing loss, we encourage you to contact your hearing practice today to schedule a professional hearing test. Proper hearing testing and treatment can greatly improve your life. Call today to set up an appointment!