According to the medical journal American Physician, hearing loss on average affects at least 25% of adults over the age of 50, and more than 50% of those older than 80 years. Experts recommend that adults get their hearing tested every 10 years until age 50, and then every 3 years after that.
Interpreting the results of a pure tone audiometry evaluation – the most common hearing test – is actually quite simple. In any case, an audiologist will break down the meaning of the hearing test report for you in simple terms after the test and suggest the best course of action. The readings of the audiometry test are plotted onto an audiogram, as you can see below.
At the top of the graph, you see numbers that represent different frequencies and or pitches that you’ll be exposed to during the hearing test. Left to right, the frequencies move from low bass sounds to high treble sounds. Down the side of the graph, you’ll see the metric “volume” plotted. Top to bottom, volume moves from soft to loud. The blue and red lines indicate hearing in each ear. The lines represent how loud different sounds need to be for the listener to barely hear them. If hearing levels at all or some pitches fall outside the “normal hearing” range, then particular speech sounds can become difficult to hear. They begin to sound inconsistent.
You don’t have to worry so much about “bad” or “perfect” hearing test results. A hearing evaluation is not a pass-fail exam. In fact, as people age, it’s common for them to lose their ability to hear sounds at higher frequencies or pitches. Quiet, high frequency sounds like that of a clock ticking or birds chirping might become almost impossible to hear. But it’s important to note that even though normal hearing test results vary by age, that result might not be considered “clinically normal”. This notion is explained better in the graph below.
According to this graph, it is “normal” that women aged 70 are unable to hear high frequency sounds at usual volumes. Their ability to hear low, treble sounds and sounds of moderate pitches still fall within the normal hearing range. Overall, this hearing threshold is typical for people of a certain age and gender, and yet, this would not qualify as “clinically normal” since these thresholds are still not as good as that of a younger person.
The “normal” hearing frequency range of a healthy, young person is about 20 to 20,000 Hz. Anything over 85 dB is considered damaging, so we should avoid exposure to such sounds. By the time we hit middle-age, the upper hearing limit dips to 14,000 Hz.
Age-related hearing loss (or presbycusis) is common, so don’t worry if your hearing test results chart indicates that you’re unable to easily hear sounds at high pitches. As we age, tiny cells in our inner ear which are responsible for producing sound, gradually stop working well for some of us. Knowing is half the battle.
Hearing loss occurs gradually as we age. It can creep up slowly and without notice. It’s a good idea to see how your friends and family respond to your hearing. If they feel it’s time you need to visit an audiologist, then don’t wait too long. There are plenty of hearing solutions out there that’ll sync with your hearing needs, lifestyle, and preferences. The high-tech devices on the market today are nifty, sleek, and so small that no one will even notice you’re wearing them!