Hearing loss is a common health problem affecting thousands of people, most of whom aren't even aware of it. And those who recognize it, often don’t consider it a serious problem. The main reason for this is that hearing loss has the ability to change over time, and so it’s challenging to know when the hearing loss started or when it's time to ask for help. It is, however, important that you understand the severity of your hearing loss and get prompt treatment before it worsens.
The loudness of sound is measured in units called decibels (dB). Here are some examples of sounds you often hear and the correlative dB reading, to give you a rough idea of what dB ranges sound like in the real world.
Breathing: 10 dB
Leaves rustling: 25 dB
Normal conversation: 40-50 dB
Washing machine: 75 dB
Football match: 100 dB
Gunshot: 130 dB
Any sound above 140 decibels is considered at the threshold of pain and discomfort. Prolonged exposure to sounds above 90 dB can damage your normal hearing. The sounds that you can or can’t hear at a decibel level determine what your level of hearing loss is.
Levels Of Hearing Loss
The severity of hearing loss that a person experiences is referred to as the degree, or level, of hearing loss. The levels of hearing loss stand on a spectrum with sounds that people may or may not be able to hear. The exact cutoff points of different levels of hearing loss vary, but a rough guide is given below.
Normal/ Slight Hearing Loss
Slight hearing loss is the inability to hear very soft sounds of 15 to 20 dB, such as breathing. This threshold is below the threshold of what is usually used to diagnose hearing loss.
This is also referred to as normal hearing, which most people have, in which they can hear all the sounds you would expect to hear like whispering, mosquito buzzing, or leaves rustling. These seemingly common sounds are difficult for people with any degree of hearing loss to hear.
Mild Hearing Loss
Hearing loss between 25 to 40 dB is considered a mild or minor hearing loss. People with this hearing loss have difficulty hearing very soft sounds, such as the ticking of a clock or water dripping. People with mild hearing loss might not even notice a problem in their hearing because they are able to hear almost all the sounds a person with normal hearing can, like the whispering of people or refrigerator humming. They might sometimes feel the need to get closer or really focus to hear these sounds. They can make out most of the one-to-one conversation, but it might occasionally get distorted by background noise. Mild hearing loss can easily be treated by using hearing aids, which make the soft sounds louder and easier to hear.
Audiogram example of Mild Hearing Loss Level.
Moderate Hearing Loss
People with moderate hearing loss can hear sounds that are less than 70 dB.
They face some difficulty in comprehending normal speech and might ask people to repeat themselves during the conversation, either face to face or on the telephone. They face difficulty in group conversations. They miss out on everyday noises such as rain falling, dog barking and dishwater running. Depending on the health status of the individual, moderate hearing loss can be treated with standard hearing aids or amplifier earphones.
Severe Hearing Loss
People with this hearing loss cannot hear sounds from 70 to 90 dB. This hearing loss creates a communication boundary as people with severe hearing loss have difficulty following a conversation and even struggle to hear loud speech without a hearing aid. They miss out on things they would like to hear; like the laughing of their loved ones, and the ringing of doorbells or the telephone. People suffering from this type of hearing loss are likely to turn the volume of the television high which might be bothersome to those around them. Although hearing aids help, in most cases, they are not enough and middle ear implants or cochlear implants are needed to effectively rectify the hearing. Hear+Hi provides Active Noise Canceling Wireless Buds which you can use in noisy environments to protect your hearing.
Profound Hearing Loss
Profound hearing loss is the most severe level of hearing loss where a person cannot hear sounds softer than 95 dB. People even have difficulty hearing loud noises such as airplanes, fireworks, and thunder which sound way too loud for a person with normal hearing. People with profound hearing loss cannot hear most sounds and often rely on visual cues such as lip reading, sign language, and gestures. A hearing aid is almost ineffective in such cases. The best treatment for profound hearing loss is cochlear implants.
Which Type of Hearing Aid Should You Buy?
It depends on the level of hearing loss you’re suffering from. Anything from mild to moderate can be easily tackled by over-the-counter hearing aids, like those offered by Hear+Hi. Such OTC hearing aids are much cheaper than those bought through an audiologist and, so, are strongly recommended if your hearing loss isn’t severe. However, if you are experiencing a greater deficit in hearing, which comes under severe and profound, then the suitable option is to consult an audiologist and use prescription hearing aids as recommended.
Any level of hearing loss hinders our way of communication. Although this complication is mostly in severe hearing loss, moderate and mild levels of impairment also create some issues in communication. This frustration is more for people with hearing loss as communication is an important part of our life. Luckily there are hearing aids available that can make communication better and more effective.
Every type of hearing loss, even if it is mild, is generally associated with cognitive decline and should be timely treated with hearing aids or other treatment measures. If you have doubts about your hearing ability it is better to get it tested. An online hearing test is available by Hear+Hi, which enables you to take a hearing test from the comfort of your home.
FAQ’s about Levels of Hearing Loss
What Level Of Hearing Loss Is Considered Deaf?
If you are not able to detect or hear sounds lower than 90 dB or higher, you are considered possibly deaf. People with profound levels of hearing loss mostly depend on sign language and lip reading for communication.
What Level Of Hearing Loss Requires A Hearing Aid?
This depends on how impactful the hearing loss is. Generally, hearing aids are suggested to people who suffer from moderate or severe hearing loss, when you are not able to hear below 70 dB, such as a nearby motorcycle, vacuum cleaner, etc. Hearing aids amplify the sounds and make them louder for you to hear.
What Level Of Hearing Loss Is Considered A Disability?
Hearing loss greater than 35 dB in a better hearing ear is considered disabling hearing loss.