What Does it Mean to Have “Normal” Hearing?

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What Does it Mean to Have “Normal” Hearing?

What Does It Mean to Have Normal Hearing
Peter Lucier, HIS

If you have noticed changes in your hearing you may be thinking about what this could mean. If it’s become more difficult to hear, your missing words during conversations, or sounds are muffled; you could be navigating hearing loss. A pervasive medical condition, hearing loss impacts an estimated 48 million people. It typically happens gradually so it is incredibly important to act on the seemingly small changes you notice with your hearing. You are likely wondering what it means to have normal hearing and how do you address the changes you are experiencing. These questions are incredibly important and are useful to ask as you prioritize your hearing health. 

Measuring Hearing

The first step is to have your hearing assessed. Hearing tests are conducted by hearing healthcare specialists (like an audiologist) who use a noninvasive and painless process to identify any hearing loss. This process includes listening to different tones played at various volumes (and pitches) and responding to what you can hear. This establishes your hearing threshold which is the softest sound you are able to hear at any given frequency, or pitch. These results will identify any degree of hearing loss you could be experiencing in both ears. 

What is Normal Hearing?

Sound is measured in units referred to as decibels (dB). The softest sound that a person with normal hearing can detect is 0dB which is near complete silence. Healthy hearing ability for an adult is defined as being able to hear sounds between 0 and 25 decibels across frequencies. This includes hearing quieter sounds like leaves rustling, a ticking watch, and sounds in a quiet room. For a child, normal hearing is considered hearing sound between 0 to 15 decibels. 

Categories of Hearing Loss

Difficulty hearing sounds that are more than 25dB indicates some degree of hearing loss. The different degrees of hearing loss are categorized as: 

  • Mild: defined as hearing thresholds in the range of 25 – 40 dB
  • Moderate: defined as hearing thresholds in the range of 40 – 55 dB
  • Moderately Severe: defined as hearing thresholds in the range of 55-70 dB
  • Severe: defined as hearing thresholds in the range of 70 – 90 dB
  • Profound: defined as hearing thresholds above 90 dB

To find out where your hearing capacity is for both ears, it is important to have your hearing evaluated as soon as you can. 

Signs of Hearing Loss 

It is incredibly important to be aware of the signs of hearing loss so that you can intervene as soon as you notice any changes to your hearing. Common signs include: 

  • Tinnitus: a buzzing, ringing, or clicking like noise in one or both ears 
  • Sounds are slurred or muffled making it difficult to hear individual words 
  • Increasing the volume on electronic devices (TV, phone, speaker etc.)
  • Frequently asking others to speak louder, slower, and/or repeat themselves 
  • Needing to move to quieter areas to hear more clearly 
  • Being able to hear more effectively in one ear compared to the other 
  • Lip reading to distinguish words and follow the conversation 
  • Feeling exhausted after conversations, experiencing stress or anxiety about engaging in conversations 

These symptoms can be experienced mildly to profoundly, significantly affecting communication. Strained communication can take a toll on health and wellness by impacting relationships, job performance, and leading to social withdrawal. Additionally, untreated hearing loss can contribute to the development of other health concerns including cognitive decline, accidental injuries, and depression. Addressing hearing loss, as early as possible, not only alleviates symptoms but transforms hearing health. 

Seeking Treatment

Prioritizing your hearing health starts with the simple step of scheduling an appointment for a hearing test. Hearing tests establish your needs and the most effective treatment options to meet those needs. The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids which are electronic devices that are designed to absorb and process sound. This provides ample support, maximizing your hearing in all of the environments you navigate. Hearing aids have benefitted from significant innovation over recent years so there is a wide range of options, styles, and features that easily integrate into daily life. Treating hearing loss enhances hearing which offers countless benefits that improve quality of life!

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