Could A Number Help You Describe Your Hearing Loss?

I like the idea of creating a more objective way to describe hearing loss that is easy to understand and to communicate to others, similar to the 20/20 metric used in vision. But hearing is more complicated than vision, which may make this method overly simplistic. In my latest article for Hearing Tracker, I discuss the pros and cons of the proposed Hearing 20/20 program. An excerpt from the article is below. To read the full post click here

What is 20/20 Hearing?

The term “hearing loss” is an awkward and imprecise way to describe a complex concept. When I mention to people that I have hearing loss, sometimes they assume I do not hear any sounds at all and use sign language to communicate. Other times the opposite occurs, and because I wear hearing aids, they expect me to hear things perfectly. For most of us with hearing loss, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. We hear well in some situations but struggle in others. It can be confusing for people who have not experienced it themselves.

These contradictions also make it tricky to explain our hearing loss to others. It is hard to know what words to use, or how to describe how hard of hearing we actually are. The current characterizations of “mild” or “profound” hearing loss leave a lot to the imagination; and for people with hearing loss, the descriptions don’t often ring true. How can we call hearing loss mild if it disrupts communication? It certainly doesn’t feel mild when it cuts us off from friends, family or co-workers. I’ve often wondered if there is a better way.

What is a Hearing Number?

One suggestion was offered this October, when several hearing loss companies and non-profits teamed up to launch a new public health campaign known as Hearing 20/20. In it, they put forth a new and objective measure for hearing. Similar to the well-known 20/20 standard used to represent typical vision, this program suggests we use a 20/20 metric for typical hearing too. They call this a hearing number and assert that we should all know ours, just like most people know their measurement of vision.

For more discussion, continue reading on Hearing Tracker.

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13 thoughts on “Could A Number Help You Describe Your Hearing Loss?

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      That is true. A numerical metric can be very helpful. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  1. Jerry Henderson – Pownal Maine – Thank you for coming to my space. This is where I post thoughts, opinions and commentary on a variety of subjects at irregular intervals. I try to do something weekly, but have not nailed down a rigid schedule, like every Wednesday, yet. If you would like email notifications of new posts, you can make that happen right on the site. Simply enter your email address to subscribe. Also, if you would like to comment I welcome that. Just do so in the space at the bottom of any selected post. Sharing thoughts, opinion and commentary is a peculiarly human characteristic. It must be exercised to be enjoyed. Jerry Henderson
    Jerry Henderson says:

    Frankly, I don’t believe most people with vision problems have a clue as to what the numbers describing their visual disability mean. And even if someone did understand the meaning of the numbers, in practice what matters is whether or not they can read books and road signs without struggling.

    My audiologist tells me that with my CI alone my word / sentence recognition score is around 75%. That’s not so hot when it comes to having a “normal” hearing experience in every day life. When I couple that with a hearing aid in the opposite ear I do much better but noisy places drives my understanding “number” way down.

    When someone wants to understand my disability I tell them that. I also tell them that having a conversation with me involves a certain amount of responsibility on their part. Everyone agrees to this but few actually make the effort beyond a brief beginning.

    I am still hopeful that the general public can be effectively educated about our invisible problem.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Me too. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

  2. My loss in each ear is different in the high, the speech level (worst) and the low areas. That’s going to give me 6 numbers. I don’t think that’s going to be an improvement in communication. But I am hopeful that new ideas are coming along. This morning I saw a news article on hearwear with AI and a brain that goes in your pocket and learns.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      I agree. Hearing loss is much more complex, but like you, I am glad to see some creative forces at work on the issue. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. As I am profound what about just “non hearing please be patient” on a clearly printed badge to wear. I have been trying to think about doing my own for some time. As I lost my hearing over a period of time people who I meet that I have known for years still think I can hear as well as before. Or just “non hearing”.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thanks for sharing your ideas.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      You should use whatever method works for you. Thanks for your comment.

  4. While i agree it would be helpful too have a simple metric that describes our hearing loss, I’m doubtful that it’s possible. I guess Pure Tone Average (PTA) was an attempt, measuring the thresholds (in terms of decibels) that we can hear at various frequencies. But, it turns out that people with the same PTA are not really the same — some hear low frequencies fairly well, but struggle with high frequencies. For others, its the reverse.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Yes, I agree. Probably too complex, but I am glad to see people thinking about the issue. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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