What is the Hearing Number?

The hearing number

Your Hearing Number reflects how loud speech must be before you can hear it. The number typically ranges from about 0 to 100 decibels (dB). The higher your Hearing Number is, the louder sounds will need to be for you to hear them.  

Most children have a Hearing Number that is less than 10, which means they can hear very soft sounds. As we get older, we all lose some hearing, and our Hearing Number increases. You have two Hearing Numbers: one for your right ear and one for your left ear.

The Hearing Number is also known as the pure tone average, or PTA. The PTA is one of many ways that hearing clinicians measure hearing. You may have heard hearing loss described as mild, moderate, or severe. The PTA is used to define those broad categories too.

  • 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

The higher the Hearing Number, the louder your conversations need to be

Imagine you are talking with someone standing three feet away from you. This image shows how loud the conversation would need to be at different Hearing Numbers.
Infographic detailing the different levels of hearing.

Why should I know my Hearing Number?

Knowing your Hearing Number is a step toward taking control of your hearing health now and throughout your life. Knowing your Hearing Number will help you:

  • Better understand your own hearing with a number that you can monitor over time.
  • Know when to start using communication strategies or hearing technologies that will improve your hearing and overall quality of life.
  • Feel empowered and more comfortable to talk about your hearing with loved ones and health care professionals.

How can I get my Hearing Number?

Here are a few ways to get your Hearing Number.

See a hearing clinician.

Your hearing clinician, such as an audiologist, will test your hearing to understand the kind of hearing loss you may have. Ask your hearing clinician to tell you your PTA, which is your Hearing Number.

Check your hearing using an Apple phone or tablet.

At this time, only Apple phones and tablets can provide your Hearing Number. Go to the Apple Store and download the Mimi app or SonicCloud and get your hearing checked for free. If using the Mimi app, choose the “Pure Tone Threshold Test.” Import your results into the Apple Health app to get your Hearing Number. In the Apple Health app, click “Show All Health Data” then scroll down until you see “Audiogram.” Your left and right ear Hearing Numbers will be listed under Audiogram.

*You must connect to the Apple Health app to receive your Hearing Number. This functionality is currently only available for Apple users.

Calculate your Hearing Number from your audiogram.

If you have a copy of your hearing test, also known as an audiogram, follow the directions below to calculate your Hearing Number.

Calculate your Hearing Number from your audiogram

If you have a copy of your hearing test, also known as an audiogram, follow the directions below to calculate your Hearing Number.

Your audiogram is a graph. Across the top is frequency (Hz). Down the side is decibels (dB). Your audiogram may have many symbols on it. To calculate your Hearing Number, look for the line with the Xs and the line with the Os.

Start with your left ear, which is the line with the Xs.

  1. Find 500 Hz on the top of the graph, and then find the X below it. Write down the dB it relates to from the side of the graph. This number will range from 0–120 dB.
  2. Do the same for the Xs below 1000 Hz, 2000 Hz, and 4000 Hz.
  3. Add the 4 numbers together and divide the total by 4.
  4. Round to the nearest whole number. That is your Hearing Number for your left ear!

Now do the same with your right ear, which is the line with the Os.

  1. Find 500 Hz on the top of the graph, and then find the O below it. Write down the dB it relates to from the side of the graph. This number will range from 0–120 dB.
  2. Do the same for the Os below 1000 Hz, 2000 Hz, and 4000 Hz.
  3. Add these 4 numbers together and divide the total by 4.
  4. Round to the nearest whole number. That is your Hearing Number for your right ear!

Important

Talk to your doctor if your right and left ear Hearing Numbers are different by more than 10 or if you have had any persistent ear pain, dizziness, ear drainage, or sudden or fluctuating hearing loss.

© Copyright Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.