Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Information and Resources

Font Size

Hearing Tests

Results continued...

 

Sound is described in terms of frequency and intensity. Your hearing threshold is how loud the sound of a certain frequency must be for you to hear it.

  • Frequency, or pitch (whether a sound is low or high), is measured in vibrations per second, or hertz (Hz). The human ear can normally hear frequencies from a very low rumble of 16 Hz to a high-pitched whine of 20,000 Hz. The frequencies of normal conversations in a quiet place are 500 Hz to 2,000 Hz.
  • Intensity, or loudness, is measured in decibels (dB). The normal range (threshold or lower limit) of hearing is 0 dB to 25 dB. For children, the normal range is 0 dB to 15 dB. Normal results show that you hear within these ranges in both ears.

The following table relates how loud a sound must be for a person to hear it (hearing thresholds) to the degree of hearing loss for adults:

Hearing loss table
Hearing threshold in decibels (dB) Degree of hearing loss Ability to hear speech

0–25 dB

None

No significant difficulty

26–40 dB

Mild

Difficulty with faint or distant speech

41–55 dB

Moderate

Difficulty with conversational speech

56–70 dB

Moderate to severe

Speech must be loud; difficulty with group conversation

71–90 dB

Severe

Difficulty with loud speech; understands only shouted or amplified speech

91+ dB

Profound

May not understand amplified speech

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

  • Being unable to cooperate, follow directions, and understand speech well enough to respond during most tests. It may be difficult to conduct hearing tests on young children or on people who have physical or mental disabilities.
  • Equipment problems, such as cracked or poorly fitting headphones or an uncalibrated audiometer, or background noise.
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding the language of the tester.
  • A recent cold or ear infection.
  • Being around loud noises within 16 hours before the test.

What To Think About

  • Other types of tests may be used to evaluate hearing. These tests include:
    • Acoustic immittance testing (tympanometry and acoustic reflex testing). This 2- to 3-minute test measures how well the eardrum moves in response to sound. The soft tip of a small instrument is inserted into the ear canal and adjusted to achieve a tight seal. Sound and air pressure are then directed toward the eardrum. The test is not painful, but slight changes in pressure may be felt or the tone may be heard.
    • Vestibular tests (falling and past-pointing tests). These tests can detect problems with areas of the inner ear that help control balance and coordination. During these tests, the person tries to maintain balance and coordination while moving the arms and legs in certain ways, standing on one foot, standing heel-to-toe, and performing other maneuvers with the eyes open and closed. The health professional will protect the person from falling, and no special preparation is needed.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 08, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

feet
Solutions for 19 types.
highlighted areas of the brain
How well do you know yours?
oatmeal and eggs
The best and worst for you.
dog begging at table
Foods your dog should never eat.
MS Overview
Recognizing symptoms.
mature woman with serious expression
What do you know?
chlamydia
Pictures and facts.
Healthy Snack
13 delicious options.
Take your medication
Separate fact from fiction.
lone star tick
How to identify that bite.
young woman in sun
What to watch for.
woman clutching at stomach
Do you know what's causing yours?

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.