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What is "Normal" Hearing for My Age?
Age related hearing ability begins to decline at age of 20. That's pretty young! However, it is not until age 50-60+ that the normal decline in hearing begins to affect communicative ability.
Age related hearing loss develops so gradually that it is often difficult for the affected individual to determine when the hearing loss is "communicatively significant."
The definition of "communicatively significant" is quite different because people's reaction to their own decline in hearing is different; people are different! As a general rule, my operative definition of "communicatively significant hearing disability when hearing aid augmentation is beneficial" is when the averaged hearing loss is greater than 35dB in the better ear.*
So what's normal for my age?
Research on normative data concerning hearing and age is lacking. In the 1950-60'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 this 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, and 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 represents various PTA scores based upon age.
AGE AND EXPECTED PURE TONE AVERAGES
Spoor, A. Presbycusis Values in Relation to Noise Induced Hearing Loss. Author - A. Spoor, Netherlands. International Audiology, 6:48-57, (1967)
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.
*OPERATIONAL DEFINITION OF "COMMUNICATIVELY SIGNIFICANT HEARING LOSS" OR, PUT ANOTHER WAY, WHEN IT IS TIME TO DISCUSS GETTING HEARING AID HELP.
If the averaged hearing loss equals 0-25dB: There is no disability (even if there is high frequency loss). There are only a few exceptions to this rule.
25-35dB: Borderline disability. There may be hearing problems, but hearing aids often do not provide enough benefit to be worth it. There are definitely exceptions to this rule.
35dB+: Time to discuss getting help; meaning, time to get hearing aids.
This rule has been pretty much correct in my practice.