The 5 Shades of Hearing Loss

The 5 Shades of Hearing Loss


So, we have already discussed the TYPE of hearing loss which describes WHERE the problem occurs along the hearing pathway; now we are going to talk about HOW MUCH of a problem an individual can have.

The degree of hearing loss varies from mild (small problem) to profound (very big problem) with some intermediate degrees as well. To determine what degree of hearing loss an individual has they must complete a full diagnostic hearing test to determine the quietest sounds that they can hear.

If the individual responds to very quiet sounds, they are considered tohave normal hearing. If they do not respond to the quietest sounds, it is possible they have a hearing loss. The volume of the sound required for the individual to respond determines the degree of hearing loss (not so loud = mild, very loud = severe/profound).

The degrees of losses can be divided into 5 degrees, depending on the volume at which one begins to hear. The volume is measured in decibels (dB HL).

Hearing loss from 25 to 40 dB HL. Soft sounds, like whispers or leaves bustling, will not be heard.

It will be easier to understand a louder voice than someone speaking at an average level (55–65 dB). In a quiet environment, a mild hearing loss may not have a huge impact, however, a mild hearing loss can have a noticeable impact on your hearing abilities in noisy environments. Hearing aids may be suggested.

Hearing loss of 40 to 70 dB HL. Softer individual speech sounds will not be heard (“s” and “f” for example).

Average conversation (55–65 dB) may be heard but will not be heard clearly. If the talker is at a distance or not facing you, comprehension will be difficult. Hearing aids are strongly recommended.

Hearing loss of 70 to 90 dB HL. You may be able to hear things in your environment, but you will have difficulty understanding most of it unless it is very loud.

To understand speech the talker must be very close and speak loudly. Even then, your comprehension will be low. Hearing aids are necessary to follow conversation.

Hearing loss of 90 to 120 dB HL. You are unable to hear most of the sounds encountered daily. Even if someone is talking very close to you and very loudly, you will likelynot hear them. Only very loud sounds may be heard.

Hearing aids/cochlear implant will be necessary to engage with the world through your hearing.

Total Deafness
Hearing loss of 120 dB HL and up. No sound is heard.

For a visual representation of hearing levels and how hearing loss is mappedand shown to patients, please check out “Understanding the Audiogram.”

What are my options?

Unfortunately, there is no miracle cure for hearing loss. However, it is possible to use various solutions to make life easier with hearing loss. Hearing aids are one of the most common solutions. The use of assistive listening devices and communication strategies are also helpful.


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