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What is "normal" hearing for my age?
Everyone over the grand old age of 20 starts to show natural changes (i.e., decline) in hearing. However, it is not typically until age 50-60+ that the normal decline in hearing related to age begins to be defined as a "disability." Even so, the decline develops so gradually that it is difficult to determine when the hearing loss is "communicatively significant," and the definition of "communicatively significant" is quite different because people's reaction to their own decline in hearing is different (people are different!). So what's normal for my age. What's normal is an expected decline in hearing at different frequencies (as shown below), but what may be "normal for YOUR age" may be quite a lot lower than your kid's or grandkid's hearing levels, and there in lies the problem.
Research on normative data concerning hearing and age is lacking. In the1950-60's, there were a handful of large scale efforts in the US and Europe to develop normative data based upon age. Henchcliff (Scotland), Spoor (Netherlands), Person & Mair (England), Glorig (1954) are the most notable. However, within the past 60 years, there has been little or no studies conducted anywhere. OSHA (the Occupational Health and Safety Act) has age-related (presbycusic) curves, but there is no data past age 60 where people are most concerned.
Nonetheless, I will give you my best estimate using what data is available. I do not want to relate these data to hearing loss because there is no uniform definition in the literature as to what constitutes a (communicatively significant) hearing loss.
The are different ways to show PURE TONE AVERAGE. While most audiologists test 8-10 frequencies in each ear, an individual's pure tone average (or PTA) is basically an average of thresholds at selected frequencies. Usually, PTA is the following three frequencies - 500, 1000, 2000Hz. Others use four frequencies - 500, 1000, 2000 and 4000Hz. OSHA and the military use 1000, 2000, 3000 and 4000Hz.
Longitudinal studies over the past ten years have shown hearing levels have not become worse over the past two generations. Therefore, using Spoor's (1967) equations, the following represent various PTA scores based upon age.
MALES BY AGE AND EXPECTED PURE TONE AVERAGES
FEMALES BY AGE AND EXPECTED PURE TONE AVERAGES
Prevalence of Hearing Loss and Differences by
Demographic Characteristics Among US Adults
Published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, vol 168 (number 14), 2008
For a PDF form online, click here.
Spoor, A. Presbycusis Values in Relation to Noise Induced Hearing Loss. Author - A. Spoor, Netherlands. International Audiology, 6:48-57, (1967)