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Hearing Loss Levels: Do you know where you fall?

About 48 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss, spanning the spectrum from mild to profound. The extent of deafness is measured in degrees and is divided into different hearing loss levels that are based on the softest decibels (dB) that they’re able to hear, otherwise known as the patient’s “auditory threshold.”

Before explaining each of the hearing loss levels, it’s helpful to understand why the spectrum exists. Inside the cochlea are tiny hair cells which determine how well you can hear. The hair cells are of two types – inner and outer. Inner hair cells are responsible for transmitting sound information to the brain, while the outer hair cells amplify softer sounds to help with frequency selectivity.

If outer hair cells get damaged, you may have trouble understanding soft sounds and will most likey fall within the range of mild-to-moderate hearing loss. People with severe-to-profound hearing loss have both inner and outer hair – cell damage, thus also losing the ability to differentiate between pitches. For such patients, hearing aids may make sounds easier to hear, but not always easy to understand.

Mild hearing loss

On average, the softest sounds that people with mild hearing loss can hear are between 25 to 40 dB. This means that people who suffer from mild hearing loss may have some difficulty in keeping up with conversations, especially if they happen in crowded and noisy places.

Moderate hearing loss

For a person with moderate hearing loss, the softest sound that he or she can pick up will be between 40 and 70 dB. Without using hearing aids, patients may find it difficult to follow conversations. About 70% of all hearing aid wearers have a hearing impairment that falls in the mild-to-moderate range.

Severe hearing loss

The softest sounds that a person suffering from severe hearing loss can pick up will be between 70 to 95 dB. You may have to use powerful hearing aids to correct it. Most people also tend to rely on lip reading or sign language, even while they use hearing aids.

Profound hearing loss

People suffering from profound hearing loss are extremely hard of hearing and rely heavily on sign language and lip reading to communicate. They may be able to hear very loud sounds; the softest sounds they can pick up are above 95 dB.

Assess your hearing loss levels

Ninety percent of all hearing loss cases can be successfully treated with the help of hearing aids. However, patients suffering from severe to profound hearing loss may also experience several additional challenges that affect the quality of their life. Untreated hearing loss can cause depression, sadness, anxiety, and poor social connections and relationships.

An experienced audiologist can help you identify your degree of hearing loss. Depending on the extent of your loss, along with your comfort and lifestyle requirements, a hearing care professional will fit you with hearing aids that are customized to meet your needs. See our hearing aid guide to learn more.

If you suspect even a small degree of hearing loss, consult with a hearing care professional as soon as possible to determine if you need a hearing aid. Not sure if it’s time? Our at-home hearing test is a great place to start.

Ken LaFerle, Au.D.
Ken is Beltone's Director of Educational Services and has been "bleeding Beltone Blue" for the last 26 years. He has been working in the hearing industry for the last 31 years and thoroughly enjoys the hearing care field and is looking forward to sharing his thoughts and experiences on the blog. More about Ken

2 Replies

  • Florence Cooper
    Reply

    I have been tested and I have bilateral mild hearing loss.often I am in able to follow conversations. in fortunately I am unable to afford the $6200 fpr hearing aids.

    • Amy Duvall
      Reply

      Hi Florence,

      Did you have your hearing tested at a Beltone location? If not, please visit your nearest location for a free hearing screening. We have many different payment options available.

      Thank you.

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