Using the Hearing Number

What does my Hearing Number tell me about my hearing?

Your Hearing Number represents how loud speech needs to be for you to hear it.

Don’t know your Hearing Number? Ask your hearing clinician to tell you your PTA, which is your Hearing Number. Or check your hearing on your Apple phone or tablet.

Your Hearing Number will change over time

That is right—and it’s not just you. Everybody’s hearing gets worse over time because the parts of the inner ear that detect sound wear out as you get older. And, as your hearing gets worse, your Hearing Number will increase.

You can use your Hearing Number to understand how your hearing changes over time. This helps you know when to use communication strategies or hearing technologies so you can hear better.

A rule of thumb is that the higher your Hearing Number is, the more communication strategies and technologies you may need. Keep reading to learn some of these helpful strategies.

Your Hearing Number Increases as You Get Older

How do I use my Hearing Number to guide me to the right communication strategies and technologies?

Your Hearing Number indicates how well you are able to hear speech sounds. If you do not know your Hearing Number, you might not even realize that you are missing some sounds. If people’s voices sound garbled or unclear, it may be because of your hearing.

How well you are able to communicate with others depends on your Hearing Number and other factors, such as:  

  • Your listening environment
  • How familiar you are with the speaker
  • Your brain’s ability to make sense of the sounds you are hearing

Hearing strategies based on your Hearing Number

Hearing Number Strategies Inforgraphic

Communication Strategies

Get close and face-to-face

Try to be close to the person you want to hear—about an arm’s length is ideal. Being able to see the face of the person who is speaking is also important. It allows you to read lip movements and facial expressions, which can help your brain decode incoming sounds.

Summarize and repeat

Didn’t understand what was said? Summarize what you did hear and ask the speaker to clarify. For example, “I heard you say something about dinner, but missed the rest.” This can be more helpful than asking “huh?” or “what?”

Avoid rooms with background noise and reverberation

The sound quality of what you are trying to hear—whether it’s a friend’s voice or the dialogue from a movie—will be better without other competing sounds. Try these steps:

  • Reduce background noise, like the TV, music, or fan.
  • Find a cozy place for your conversation. Smaller spaces and lower ceilings tend to have less reverberation, or echo, than larger spaces and high ceilings. Soft surfaces, like carpet and pillows, also help muffle noisy reverberation so that you can hear more of what is being said.

Everyday Technologies

Turn on closed captioning

Using captions (also known as subtitles) while watching TV or movies makes it easier to understand what is being said. Your brain won’t have to concentrate as hard to catch the dialogue.

Make phone calls over VoIP services

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services, such as FaceTime, Google Voice, Skype, and WhatsApp, have better sound quality than a regular phone call. This can make it easier to understand what is said.

Customize Audio Output on Smartphones

Many smartphone apps can help you change the sound on your smartphone so that it is easier to hear phone calls and listen to music. You can also customize certain Bluetooth headphones that connect to smartphones, tablets, and televisions so you can hear better.

Hearing Technologies

OTC Hearing Aids

Americans can now buy safe and effective over-the-counter, or OTC, hearing aids. OTC hearing aids are intended for adults with hearing numbers less than 60 (mild to moderate levels of hearing loss). They can be purchased without seeing a hearing clinician, such as an audiologist or hearing aid specialist.

Prescription Hearing Aids

Prescription hearing aids are for people with all levels of hearing loss. They are available through a hearing care professional who will assess your hearing needs and guide you in using these technologies and other strategies.

Cochlear Implants

Cochlear implants are for individuals with severe levels of hearing loss who do not benefit enough from a hearing aid. A cochlear implant converts sounds into electrical signals that are sent to the brain. Getting a cochlear implant involves an outpatient surgery by an otolaryngologist (ENT).

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