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Human Hearing Range

The human hearing range frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz). Furthermore, we can measure our ability to perceive sounds in decibels (dB).

In this expert guide, we walk you through the human hearing range, plus, provide the opportunity for you to check your hearing online.

What Is The Human Hearing Range?

Processing sound waves and translating them into signals that we interpret as music, noise or speech is the main job of the ear and its parts. Although its structure and functions are perfectly aligned to deliver the sounds we are used to, the normal adult human hearing range is limited to certain frequencies and specific sounds remain inaudible.

Firstly, all sounds have different frequencies (number of vibrations per second), which are responsible for the pitch and the tone. Additionally, frequencies are measured in Hertz (one vibration per second).

The normal human hearing range of a healthy individual is usually in-between 20Hz and 20000Hz with the higher frequencies gradually fading during a lifetime. Below 20Hz are called infrasounds and above 20000Hz are called ultrasounds.

Depending on your gender, age and occupation, each person’s audible range may fluctuate but usually it is within those limits. Overall, the human ear is best adapted to frequencies between 1000 and 3500Hz (human speech covers the range of 200-8000Hz).

Decibels (dB) are the unit used to measure sound intensity and anything above 90dB will cause damage to the ear. The higher the intensity of the sound the quicker it will damage the delicate structures in the ear.

How Do We Hear?

Hearing, just like the other human senses, is a fascinating process involving multiple body parts. Complex as it is, it is also very sensitive and fragile, so it is good to know how it functions in order to protect it.

Labelled diagram of the human ear The Ear

The human ear consists of three main parts:

  1. Outer ear - The outer ear includes the pinna (ear lobe) that collects sound waves and locates their direction. These waves then enter the ear canal and reach the tympanic membrane (eardrum). Once the sound waves reach it, the eardrum vibrates and sends them to the middle ear.
  2. Middle ear - This part of the ear has three tiny bones called ossicles that are responsible for amplifying and transmitting the received sound signals to the inner ear.
  3. Inner ear - When in the inner ear the sound waves are transformed into electrical impulses and are sent to the auditory nerve that passes them to the brain.

The main organ responsible for the hearing process is the cochlea – a small shell-like structure with tubes full of liquid and tiny, extremely sensitive hair cells. The hair cells are integral to hearing and even the slightest damage can compromise their proper function, as they do not regenerate. This is how hearing loss develops. In terms of hearing ability, those with normal hearing should not expect or experience any loss more than 25dB.

How Can I Check My Hearing?

If you feel you are experiencing a loss of hearing greater than 25dB, take our free online hearing test.

Results should indicate if you need to take further action to look after your hearing. We recommend that if you have concerns, you should consult a medical professional or audiologist who can perform clinical screenings to assess hearing ability.

What About Other Species?

Many animals have a wider hearing range compared to humans and pick up infrasonic and ultrasonic sounds. Sounds below 20Hz (such as a heartbeat) are called infrasonic and above 20kHz, ultrasonic (echolocation of bats). Dogs, for example, have a hearing range between 40 and 60000Hz and they respond better to higher frequency sounds. That is why training whistles are designed to emit ultrasonic signals.

Bats are another species whose hearing exceeds human levels and reaches to 150kHz. As they have limited vision, echolocation is essential for hunting and surviving. An interesting animal, the dolphin is famous for its high-frequency communication that is usually between 75 and 150000Hz. Below, you can see a short overview of some other animals’ hearing range compared to the human range.

Human

20Hz-20kHz

Chimpanzee

100Hz-20kHz

Cat

30Hz-50kHz

Rabbit

300Hz-45kHz

Mouse

1kHz-100kHz

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Author: Joan McKechnie

Image of Joan McKechnieAfter qualifying as a Speech-Language Pathologist and Audiologist Joan has spent most of her 20 year career in hearing-care related roles. She has a wealth of experience within the hearing aid and hearing rehabilitation fields and has worked in manufacturing environments with two hearing aid companies helping to develop  products and roll out new technologies. Joan has been involved with Hearing Direct since its launch and enjoys the online retail environment which seeks to provide easier access to hearing products and accessories. She is HCPC registered. Read Joan's full bio here.

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