What Is The Human Hearing Range?

There are a variety of sounds in our environment at any given time and place. From the faintest of sounds that we barely notice to the loudest of sounds that we experience, sounds and noises are, and always will be, a part of our lives. The human hearing range is a description of the frequencies and sound levels that we should be able to hear under normal circumstances. When you have any form of hearing loss, your hearing range changes. For most people hearing loss will begin by affecting your ability to hear higher pitches and progress from there. It is vital, when you first begin to notice a change in your hearing, that you speak with an audiologist immediately. They can test your hearing, plot out your results on an audiogram, and recommend a course of action if needed.

Measurement of Hearing Range 

If you have heard the term “sound wave” then you probably have a visual of how sound travels in waves and is transmitted over a medium such as a gas, plasma, or liquid. Sound waves enter our outer ear and travel through our ear canal to our eardrum. The eardrum vibrates and sends these vibrations to three bones called the malleus, incus, and stapes. The sound that we hear is measured in two ways:

  1. Frequency

The frequency of a sound wave is measured in hertz (Hz). The human ear, under normal circumstances, perceives frequencies between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz or 20 kHz. Any sound below 20 Hz is considered an infrasound while anything above 20 kHz is called an ultrasound. A frequency, while not the same as a pitch, is correlated to the pitch of a sound. The higher the frequency, the higher the pitch, and the lower the frequency the lower the pitch.

  1. Loudness 

The loudness of a sound is measured in decibels (dB). How loud a sound is refers to the intensity of the sound in relation to the intensity at the threshold of hearing. The threshold for human hearing is about 0 dB. To get a feel for the loudness that most humans can tolerate here are some everyday examples:

  • Breathing is about 10 dB
  • A whisper is between 20 and 30 dB
  • A slightly noisy conversation is about 50 dB 
  • A lawn mower is about 90 dB
  • Chain saws register at about 120 dB
  • A jet taking off is about 150 dB

In terms of loudness, the normal human hearing range is between 0 and 120 dB. However, anything over 103 dB could cause damage to your ears and potentially result in hearing loss.

Understanding the Human Hearing Range 

To understand the human hearing range, you have to understand that humans hear sound on two levels: Pitch and Volume. Pitch is related to the frequency of the sound wave and volume is related to the intensity of the sound. The study of sound can be quite complicated, but as it relates to human hearing, it can be simplified.

As mentioned above, the human hearing range in terms of frequency is between 20 Hz and 20 kHz. The higher the frequency, the higher the pitch of the sound. As people age, they often begin to lose their ability to hear sounds at higher levels. The following is a chart that shows normal hearing loss that occurs when people age:

Age of the Person Hearing Range in Hz
50 and under 12,000 Hz
40 and under 15,000 Hz
30 and under 16,000 Hz
20 and under 17,000 Hz
Young Children Up to 20,000 or sometimes more

There are multiple things that can impact a person’s ability to hear sounds at certain frequencies, but age is the major indicator of the frequencies you can hear. Other aspects that can impact our hearing health include:

  • Noise Exposure. Extended exposure to loud and high-pitched noises can cause damage to your ears.
  • Lifestyle Choices. A poor diet, high-stress living, or drug use are all lifestyle choices that can have a negative effect on your hearing.
  • Disease. Certain diseases can affect your hearing.

The most common way to define hearing loss is in terms of the lowest dB levels at which a person can hear. For instance, if the quietest volume that a person can hear is 15 dB, then that person falls within the normal hearing range. The following is a table that contains one of the more common systems of classifying hearing levels:

Hearing Level dB Range
Normal Hearing -10dB to 25dB
Mild Hearing Loss 26dB to 40dB
Moderate Hearing Loss 41dB to 55dB
Moderately Severe Hearing Loss 56dB to 70dB
Severe Hearing Loss 71dB to 90dB
Profound Hearing Loss 91dB+

Taking Care of Human Hearing 

Hearing is one of the most important things that we have as humans. It helps to protect us, make us aware of our surroundings, build relationships with others, and optimize our ability to communicate. Because hearing is so important to us, there are some easy and important ways to take care of your ears.

Here are 10 things you can do to protect your hearing health:

  1. Use earplugs around loud noises
  2. Have your ears checked regularly by a doctor
  3. Turn the volume down
  4. Never insert a cotton swab into your ear
  5. If you are exposed to loud noises for an extended period of time, give your ears time to recover
  6. Watch out for early signs of hearing loss such as difficulty hearing conversations, frequently asking people to repeat themselves, difficulty hearing on the telephone, and nodding your head in agreement without knowing what is being said
  7. Keep your ears dry, especially after swimming 
  8. Manage your stress levels
  9. Stay healthy through exercise and diet
  10. Swallow and yawn frequently when on an airplane to keep the pressure in your eardrums equalized

How Mild-to-Moderate Hearing Loss Impacts Conversation

Mild hearing loss can be difficult to perceive at first, and sometimes it can gradually and painlessly progress without you being aware. As your hearing loss moves from mild to moderate, it becomes clearer that something is wrong, and your ability to hold conversations with others is one of the first things to be affected.

At first, you may notice that your ears feel like they are plugged even if there is nothing in them. Often it sounds like the people you are conversing with are mumbling while everyone else hears them fine. In the beginning, a one-on-one conversation in a quiet space with little distance between you can seem like normal. It is when the conversation involves multiple people, the surrounding environment is noisy, or you are conversing over a distance or through the phone that you can really tell the difference.

Here are some key indicators and annoyances involved with trying to hold a conversation when suffering from mild to moderate hearing loss:

  • You have difficulty holding a conversation when there is noticeable background noise
  • You frequently ask people to repeat themselves
  • You have difficulty hearing on the telephone
  • You feel like other people are mumbling even if everyone else hears them
  • When other high-pitched noises are present in your environment you have difficulty conversing
  • You often do not hear people correctly and reply to them out of context or answer questions that they did not ask

If you observe something different from the way you hear, it’s best to seek professional help as soon as you can. Early detection means early intervention. An audiologist can help diagnose any hearing problems and provide solutions best suited to your specific needs and lifestyle.

There are various types of hearing loss and each would entail a different kind of hearing aid and program settings.

Cookie bite hearing loss is a type of hearing loss that affects the mid-frequency sounds. This can make it difficult to hear things like voices, music, and other sounds in the middle range of frequencies. The best hearing aids for cookie bite hearing loss will amplify the mid-frequency sounds so that you can hear them more clearly.

An audiologist can recommend the best hearing aids for cookie bite hearing loss or any other type of hearing concerns.

What is a high-frequency hearing test, and why is it important to understand the human hearing range?

A high-frequency hearing test is a specialized assessment designed to evaluate an individual’s ability to hear sounds in the higher frequency range. Understanding the human hearing range is essential because it encompasses the full spectrum of frequencies that humans can perceive, from the lowest to the highest tones. While the average human hearing range spans from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, individual hearing abilities can vary.

A high-frequency hearing test helps audiologists pinpoint any hearing loss or deficiencies in the higher frequency range, which is particularly important as these frequencies include many speech sounds and environmental cues. By undergoing a high-frequency hearing test, individuals can gain insight into their complete hearing capabilities and address any potential hearing issues in both everyday life and communication.

What is the difference between an audiologist and a speech pathologist?

If you have difficulties in hearing, you may be wondering what type of doctor or healthcare professional you should approach. Some are confused if they should see an audiologist or a speech pathologist.

An audiologist vs speech pathologist comparison primarily centers around their areas of expertise and the conditions they address. Audiologists specialize in assessing and managing hearing and balance disorders. They are trained to conduct hearing tests, fit hearing aids, and provide rehabilitation for individuals with hearing impairment.

On the other hand, speech pathologists, also known as speech-language pathologists, focus on communication disorders. They work with individuals who have difficulties with speech, language, voice, and fluency, helping them improve their communication skills. While both professionals play crucial roles in healthcare, audiologists primarily deal with hearing-related issues, while speech pathologists focus on a broader range of communication challenges.

Dr. Liliana Cabrera Piccinini

Liliana earned her Doctor of Audiology degree from Salus University, PA. She is a member of The Academy of Doctors of Audiology. Due to her own hearing loss history, Liliana is particularly passionate about her profession. She is determined to effectively diagnose and guide patients in finding the best hearing solutions. You can find Liliana at PA Center for Hearing and Balance, PA.
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Dr. Liliana Cabrera Piccinini

Liliana earned her Doctor of Audiology degree from Salus University, PA. She is a member of The Academy of Doctors of Audiology. Due to her own hearing loss history, Liliana is particularly passionate about her profession. She is determined to effectively diagnose and guide patients in finding the best hearing solutions. You can find Liliana at PA Center for Hearing and Balance, PA.
Table of Contents