MCL (Most Comfortable Level)

When we get a hearing test, we’re tested for our MCL or “Most Comfortable Level” that we hear speech. Is there a “normal” MCL number? Is it just personal preference, or does it depend on the degree of hearing loss a person has?

I have similar questions regarding a person’s UCL or “Uncomfortable Level.”

I am one that for me to hear speech the best I am right on the edge of being uncomfortable with my hearing aids, but I am slowly get use to that level and it is becoming comfortable. Our brains do adjust.

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I would think everyone is different. On a tangent, I think the noise limiter in my current ReSound Preza aids is set too low. It seems to kick in and clip sounds much more often than my ReSound Forte 8s. They are off to ReSound because the left one power cycles and won’t stay on consistently. When they come back next week I’m going to ask the Costco fitter to re-do the hearing test and tune them up a bit.

In general, a “normal” MCL level is around 50dB to 55dB. This is about as loud as normal, every day speech.

As hearing loss gets worse, we see MCL numbers get higher and higher. For example, a LOT of my patients have MCLs at around the 80dB mark. Understand that 80dB is about as loud as as a freight train 100ft away. Pretty dang loud. No wonder their neighbors complain about the television!

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UCL is a bit of a different animal. People with hearing loss may not even have a UCL that is measurable with a modern audiometer just because you cannot make a tone loud enough.

UCL is helpful when it comes to fitting hearing aids, as it gives us a measure of what is called “dynamic range.” That is the range between the level a person can first hear a sound and the level at which the sound becomes uncomfortable. In some cases we see what is called “hyperacusis.” Hyperacusis is basically increased sensitivity to sounds. So if a person has a UCL at 60, that’s gonna be a problem.

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