When it comes to hearing loss, you may think of it as a black and white issue: you either have hearing loss or you don’t. While it is true that you could be assessed as having normal hearing or hearing loss, hearing loss is more nuanced than you might first expect. Hearing loss is evaluated in degrees.
Your degree of hearing loss is assessed using two different measures: how loud something needs to be before you can hear it, and which frequencies are more difficult for you to hear. Many people experience difficulty hearing higher frequencies as they age. However, hearing loss is unique to each person, and your ability to hear can also change over time.
The first way your degree of hearing loss is measured is by the loudness of sound. This is measured in units called decibels (dB). The second way your hearing loss is measured is by frequency or pitch. This is measured in Hertz (Hz). Measured together, dB and Hz determine your degree of hearing loss.
Slight hearing loss
If you cannot hear sounds quieter than 15-20 dB, such as whispering or leaves rustling, you have slight hearing loss. Although this level of hearing loss is below that which is usually measured by hearing professionals, it may still make life more challenging if you are unable to clearly hear conversations. In addition, slight hearing loss in children is often treated with hearing aids in order to assist in speech and language development.
Mild hearing loss
Mild hearing loss is defined as having hearing loss between 26 and 40 dB in the speech frequencies. If you have difficulty understanding certain words in noisy environments with lots of background noise, but you do well in one-on-one discussions, you may have mild hearing loss.
Moderate hearing loss
If you have moderate hearing loss, you cannot hear sounds lower than 40-69 dB. At this level of hearing loss, you will likely find yourself frequently asking people to repeat themselves in conversation, whether you are in person or speaking on the telephone. Both mild and moderate hearing loss can be effectively treated with standard hearing aids.
Severe hearing loss
Those with severe hearing loss cannot hear sounds lower than 70-94 dB. If you have severe hearing loss, you are likely unable to hear people speaking without the use of a hearing aid or amplification device, or you may have to rely on lip-reading to understand a conversation.
Profound hearing loss
If you have profound hearing loss, you can only hear very loud sound–nothing below 95 dB. Even at loud volumes, you may have trouble understanding conversation or hearing sounds without the use of a hearing aid or cochlear implant. People with profound hearing loss may prefer to communicate using sign language.
It is important to have your hearing ability assessed regularly by a hearing professional and to take any hearing loss seriously. Regardless of your age, hearing aids or another type of treatment can help you hear better and can prevent associated health problems, including depression, cognitive decline, falls, social isolation, and anxiety.
To learn more about the degrees of hearing loss and to schedule your next hearing assessment, we welcome you to contact our hearing practice today. We are eager to care for you.