Evaluations for hearing, like most medical evaluations, have what’s considered a healthy or “normal” range. If a person's hearing, regardless of age, falls within that normal range, further testing usually isn’t required. In some instances hearing test results can alert a specialist of other ear conditions, even when results appear normal. Age must be considered when evaluating certain portions of a hearing test.
Hearing test results are recorded on an audiogram. A hearing test determines the softest level you can hear the frequencies of human speech at. An audiogram chart has frequencies across the top (250Hz to 6,000Hz). Along the left side are numbers representing decibel levels (-20dB to +120dB). A normal hearing range is between -20 and +25 decibels.
The younger you are, the closer to -20dB your hearing should be. Ideally, hearing should remain acute throughout adolescence and into early adulthood. If a young child’s hearing is at +20dB or +25dB, further testing should be done. An Ear, Nose and throat physician can check the child’s middle and inner ears, sinuses and brain.
20s and 30s
Young adults are experiencing noise-induced hearing damage thanks to personal music and media players and custom car stereos. Youths in their 20s can have noise-induced hearing loss. However, the range for normal hearing is the same -20dB to +25dB. As a young adult, if you're routinely exposed to loud sounds, you should have annual hearing tests.
Baby Boomers and Beyond
The older you get, the more likely you are to experience some age-related hearing loss. Some people never fall out of a normal range of hearing. However, by age 50 you’ll probably test around +15db to +25db on a hearing test.
After age 50 you should have annual hearing tests. Rapidly progressive hearing loss affects older individuals. Prescription drugs and other medical conditions are the main causes of rapidly progressing hearing loss.
A routine newborn hearing screening is performed by a hearing screener or nurse at the hospital. The test looks for responses to sound stimuli. The screening is pass or fail. Older children receive routine hearing screenings at school. School hearing screenings are also pass or fail. If an infant or child fails a hearing screening, he's referred to a pediatric audiologist.