What Is “Normal” Hearing For a Senior?

written by Becki Andrus

Hearing loss is a natural consequence of aging due to environmental impacts over a person’s lifetime. Additionally, cell degeneration can cause different functions in the body to start to break down, including the delicate parts of the ear that are necessary for hearing.

As hearing starts to decrease, it’s time to visit a doctor for assistance. The good news is that modern technology makes it easier than ever to correct these hearing issues so you can continue living a full, thriving lifestyle.

What is Normal Hearing?

As you or a loved one is getting older, you might be wondering what “normal” hearing is – so you can identify when it’s time to visit a doctor for a hearing test.

There are varying opinions about the specific frequencies you need to hear to be in the normal range of your age.

Hearing tests are used to determine the severity of a person’s hearing loss. Not only do these measurements help doctors determine if your hearing is in a normal range, but the testing is also crucial for identifying whether you can benefit from hearing amplification.

Normal Hearing for a 70-Year-Old

A study looking at hearing loss in older adults shows that hearing loss increases gradually with age. Hearing loss can affect people of all ages but is more common in people who are in their 60’s, 70’s, and older.

Disabling hearing loss affects aging adults more as people get older. Here is a breakdown of the percentage of people experiencing disabling hearing loss, based on age:

  • 2% of adults between the ages of 45 – 54
  • 8.5% of adults between the ages of 55 – 64
  • 25% of adults between the ages of 65 – 74
  • 50% of adults 75 years old and older

What is an Audiogram? And How the Results Show Normal Hearing

An audiogram tests a full range of hearing thresholds, specifically focusing on the quietest sounds your ears can detect.

This test measures different frequencies through five octaves. Like playing notes on a keyboard, the frequencies sound unique, with lower (bass) and high (treble) pitch sounds. Then, these results are plotted in graph form to show the audiogram results.

If you can hear small sounds, like a pin dropping, then your audiogram results will show that you have good hearing – at the top of the audiogram.

Your tests can be compared to the overall population. The normal range is calculated with half the people your age above the hearing threshold and half below that line.

If your audiogram shows as higher than the curve for your age, then it means that your hearing is better than average. Conversely, when the results show lower, then it means that you are experiencing more hearing loss than the averages for your age.

Does it Matter if You Have “Normal” Hearing?

While hearing tests are helpful to measure a person’s range of hearing, falling in the normal range doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t need hearing assistance.

For example, audiograms test for two types of hearing loss but don’t account for hearing loss that occurs because of nerve damage. So even if your hearing is “normal,” you still might find it difficult to understand conversations or hear noises in the environment around you.

Also, keep in mind that you might have normal hearing for come frequencies, with hearing loss only affecting specific frequencies. A common trend is to have normal thresholds in the lower frequencies and hearing loss in the higher frequencies.

Considering Age When Measuring Hearing Loss

Additionally, it’s essential to consider the source of data when determining if your hearing is normal. For example, if you compare your hearing test with the World Health Organization’s definition of normal hearing, then understand that these reported ranges aren’t adjusted for age.

So, your hearing might be normal for your gender and age. But your thresholds are showing lower based on the WHO charts because your hearing isn’t as good as younger people.

Conversational Issues with Hearing Loss

If you are in the normal hearing range, then you probably don’t have difficulty hearing conversations. These sounds are louder than your hearing thresholds.

But conversational sounds can start to decrease, depending on the severity of your hearing loss:

  • Mild Hearing Loss: You can hear conversational sounds, but they are faint. Or you might feel like people are mumbling while they talk.
  • Moderate or Severe Hearing Loss: You can’t hear any speech sounds when other people are talking.

In the beginning, people with age-related hearing loss often lose their ability to hear the higher frequencies. So, you might notice that you can hear some people but have difficulty hearing other people – depending on the pitch and sound of their voices.

Another common age-related hearing complaint is that you can hear people talking, but it’s hard to understand what they are saying because the voice isn’t clear.

Consonant sounds tend to be the most difficult for older adults to hear because they often occur in higher frequencies. For example, you might be missing essential consonants such as f, k, p, or t. Vowels are typically clearer since they tend to be in the lower frequencies of conversational sounds.

Hearing Amplification for Age-Related Hearing Loss

If you have problems hearing certain sounds, it’s time to talk to a hearing specialist for an accurate diagnosis. Hearing loss can affect all areas of your life, making it hard to maintain relationships or interact in social settings.

Not only can age-related hearing loss make it hard to hear certain sounds, but you might also find that loud sounds are unbearable. So, hearing amplification doesn’t necessarily correct the issue because making the sounds louder doesn’t necessarily improve the clarity of your hearing.

A hearing specialist can help you choose the ideal hearing aids with custom settings based on your hearing. For example, only specific frequencies can be amplified to help you fill in the conversational gaps you are missing.

Talk to an ENT: Find Answers for Age-Related Hearing Loss

When you schedule an appointment with our experienced team, we will complete hearing tests and a full examination to determine the underlying causes of your hearing loss.

A full diagnosis is essential to understand the reason why you are losing your hearing. Common issues include ear canal blockages from impacted wax, infection, damage, or age.

Treatment options often include hearing aids or other assistive devices such as speech-to-text technology or phone amplifiers.

You can learn more about your options by visiting with an ENT in or near Collin County and Dallas. Our staff at Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat is here to assist. Contact us to schedule an appointment in Frisco or Plano, TX. Request an appointment using our online form or by calling: (972) 596-4005.

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