Do You Know Your Hearing Number?

With the launch of OTC hearing aids, one of the biggest questions asked is “How do I know what type of hearing loss I have?” The Johns Hopkins Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health thinks they have an answer in their Know Your Hearing Number public health campaign. The creators hope their campaign will inspire people to care about their hearing health by following their Hearing Number over time.

What is a Hearing Number?

Your Hearing Number tells you how loud sounds must be in order for you to hear them. And it’s not just for people with hearing loss. In fact, the campaign hopes that everyone will know their Hearing Number throughout their lifetime as a way to monitor this important aspect of overall health.

Hearing Numbers typically range from 0 to 100 decibels (dB). The higher the number, the louder sounds need to be in order for you to hear them. For children with typical hearing, Hearing Numbers can be less than 10 which is better than what is typically considered “normal” hearing on an audiogram. As we age, our Hearing Number is likely to increase. And we each have two: one for each ear.

How to Calculate Your Hearing Number

The Hearing Number is also known as the pure tone average or PTA, which is the simple average of the volume (in decibels) at which you hear four of the frequencies (in Hertz (Hz)) that are most impactful for speech understanding: 500 Hz, 1000 Hz, 2000 Hz, and 4000 Hz.

An example calculation from the Hearing Number website is below.

Source: HearingNumber.org

This simple average is just that: simple. It will not tell you everything you need to know about your hearing, especially if your audiogram does not match the classic pattern shown in the example above, but it can be useful in estimating the general degree of hearing loss that you have.

  • Mild: 20-34
  • Moderate: 35-49
  • Moderately severe: 50-64
  • Severe: 65-79

I Know my Hearing Number: Now What?

A Hearing Number is not a solution to hearing loss or a silver bullet for diagnosis or treatment, but it can serve as a guide to help direct you to the next step of your hearing loss journey. For all Hearing Numbers, communication strategies like the ones we discuss in Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss are important. So are everyday technologies like captioning and Bluetooth.

Where a Hearing Number can help most is determining your next step with hearing-specific technology. If your Hearing Number is mild or moderate, an OTC device may be appropriate for you. If not, a prescription device may be needed, or even a cochlear implant. Please note the significant overlap of prescription hearing aids with both cochlear implants and OTC devices. We all experience hearing loss differently, so the device that works for one person may not work for someone else—even if they have the same Hearing Number. If you feel uncertain about your next steps, a hearing care professional can help you determine which is best for your particular situation.

Source: HearingNumber.org.

Hearing Number Perhaps Most Useful for the Uninitiated

Many of us reading this blog already know that we have hearing loss and what degree it is. The Hearing Number concept may be less important and helpful for us. But where it may have a meaningful impact is with the uninitiated—those not yet on their hearing loss journey or just at the start of it.

While simple and imperfect, if the Hearing Number can encourage the general public to take increased note of their hearing in the same way they do of their vision or cholesterol level, it will have been a useful tool, not only for raising awareness, but for improving hearing health across the spectrum.

Readers, do you know your Hearing Number?

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14 thoughts on “Do You Know Your Hearing Number?

  1. ianchisnall – Brighton, East Sussex – I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
    ianchisnall says:

    Many thanks for this Shari

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Roger Talbott – I grew up on a farm. I retired to the biggest city in North America. I never met someone of a different race or faith until I was almost 18. Today I live in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the world. I was born in the middle of the 20th Century. I am getting to see the beginning of the 21st. Some things never change, however.I have always been sustained by the belief that there is something beyond what I can see that is good and lasts forever. Life needs to have meaning and purpose. Relationships need to be based on love and respect. The best work feels like play. Our bodies and minds need to be challenged. To meet those challenges we need to eat good food and read good thoughts. And I know from experience that we can turn our backs on those truths and really screw up our lives.
    Roger Talbott says:

    Thank you for this. So helpful, as always. I have shared in on my FB feed.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thank you for sharing!

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thanks for your question. The hearing number is an average of the four numbers, not the sum.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Oops — yes! Thank you for catching that typo. I will fix it now.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Fixed. Thank you!

  3. Like me, I think Monica was referring to the Hearing Ranges, which don’t make sense (I believe this is what she meant when said “don’t add up.” HERE are the ranges from JH website: don’t know why Moderate isn’t shown as 35 – 49

    Mild is a Hearing Number of 20 to 34
    Moderate is a Hearing Number of 34 to 49
    Moderately severe is a Hearing Number of 50 to 64
    Severe is a Hearing Number of 65 to 79

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thank you. I think it is fixed now.

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