The line between normal hearing and hearing loss isn’t exactly a clear one. Hearing loss severity is measured in two ways: how loud sounds need to be for you to hear them and what frequencies you can detect. For this reason, hearing tests measure how loud sounds have to be across the speech frequency range in order for you to make them out.
In order to understand what ‘normal hearing’ means, we need to look at how sound is measured for hearing tests and the different degrees of hearing loss.
How Sounds Are Measured
The loudness of sounds refers to the amplitude of the soundwave, which is measured in decibels (dB). Below are some common sounds and their decibel outputs:
- Breathing: 10 dB.
- Conversation: 40-60 dB.
- Lawnmower: 90 dB.
- Rock concert: 120 dB.
- Gunshot: 140 dB.
The pitch of sounds refers to the frequency of the soundwave, which is measured in Hertz (Hz). Hearing tests gauge your ability to hear sounds between 250 Hz and 8000 Hz, the range of speech.
The Degrees of Hearing Loss
After your hearing test measures how loud sounds have to be in order for you to hear them at each frequency range, you will be diagnosed with a certain degree of hearing loss. You may have a different degree of hearing loss in each ear.
- Normal hearing means you can hear sounds as low as 0-10 dB. Note that 0 dB is not an absence of sound; it is the quietest level the human ear can detect, like a leaf falling to the ground.
- Slight hearing loss means you cannot hear sounds under 15 dB. This degree of hearing loss does not usually warrant treatment in adults, but is usually recommended for children so they can develop essential speech and language skills.
- Mild hearing loss means you cannot hear sounds between 26 and 40 dB. Most people with mild hearing loss can have one-on-one conversations without background noise just fine but may struggle in settings like Charleston Grill.
- Moderate hearing loss means you cannot hear sounds 40-69 dB. This degree is usually treated with standard hearing aids.
- Severe hearing loss means you cannot hear sounds between 70-94 db. Most people with severe hearing loss rely on lip reading and other visual cues as well as amplification.
- Profound hearing loss means you cannot hear sounds even as high as 95-100 dB. Some people with profound hearing loss wear cochlear implants in order to communicate.
To learn more about the degrees of hearing loss or to schedule an appointment for a hearing test, call the experts at The Hearing & Balance Center today.