You've taken your first hearing test – and you wonder what all those numbers mean? Or do your results surprise you? You're not alone. Just like you, our team at Mimi is continuously learning about hearing as we go: we have discovered many new insights about the hearing of the population. Here we would like to explain these to you.
Hearing loss grades across age groups
As we get older, our ears are aging too. That is why the expected hearing loss grade changes with every age group. For the young ones, we expect no loss at all – even with small amounts of hearing loss, they may end up at the lower end of the spectrum of their age group. Meanwhile older people can be expected to have some hearing loss already; so someone with no or mild loss will be at the top end of their age group.
I have no hearing loss, but I hear worse than most people in my age group. How can that happen?
This happens when we measure slightly elevated hearing thresholds compared to what is expected for your age, but these deviations may be too small to qualify as an actual hearing loss. Often, a little bit of hearing loss is the first sign of slow degradation, even though you do not yet experience any limitations in your everyday life. We believe you should still be aware of it. In particular, we recommend to watch out for changes in your results over time!
Please note that several factors might have skewed the measurements, such as the state of the headphones you used, the noise around you, or even your concentration! If you think your test setup might not have been optimal, you can always repeat the test in better conditions to make sure you obtain accurate information.
I have some form of hearing loss, but I hear better than most people in my age group? Why?
The good news: we measured lower hearing thresholds than what is expected for your age. However, this doesn't mean you don't need to take good care of your ears! Regardless of your age, if you have any grade of hearing loss, we strongly advise you to track your hearing capacity over time and get professional medical advice!
In your Mimi profile, you can see two percentage values, each representing one of your ears: your hearing capacity. This is based on a German standard for quantifying hearing loss (Röser, 1973) that is used in clinical practice and as a basis for expert opinions, e.g. in insurance contexts. Our hearing capacity measure is based on Röser's standard with small modifications to account for the context we are using it in.
Essentially, hearing capacity represents a linear scale between two extremes: 100%, which means absolutely perfect hearing of a healthy 18-year old (thresholds at 0 dB), and 0%, where even very loud sounds can not be perceived and a person must be considered deaf (thresholds above 95 dB). Just like Röser, we summarise the results across frequencies 500-4k Hz, and give more weight to the central frequencies, since those are more important for you to understand speech.
As you may have seen in the insights, many of us do have slightly asymmetric hearing, which simply means that one ear can hear slightly better. In most situations, the stronger ear is able to compensate for the weaker ear. So if only one of your ears has some hearing loss, you will not be categorized as someone with hearing loss. This is also why the WHO grades people's hearing according to the results of the better ear. Accordingly, the hearing loss grade you are shown in your insights is based on your better performing ear.
When we talk about a tone, we describe it by two measures: frequency, which describes its quality, i.e. whether it is a low or high tone (in units of Hertz), and sound level, which defines its intensity (in units of decibel). Your hearing threshold is the minimum sound level at which you are able to hear a tone at a particular frequency. This is the level at which the tone enters the "threshold" into your perception.