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    Hearing Tests

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    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.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    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.

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