What is Hearing Loss?

It isn’t uncommon for people with hearing difficulties to turn away from friends and family and become isolated. Loss of hearing means that you are no longer able to carry conversations and interact with your loved ones the same way you did in the past. This can be extremely frustrating.
The most common causes are:
  • Aging
  • Prolonged exposure to loud noises
  • Diseases such as meningitis
  • Hereditary factors
  • Certain medications

Levels of Hearing Loss

The term, degrees of hearing loss, refers to the various levels of the damage. Your hearing loss may be completely different in severity than someone else’s and falls into one of four categories: 
  • Mild 
  • Moderate
  • Severe
  • Profound

Audiologists measure the intensity of a sound and the degree of hearing loss in decibels (dB). What that means is, if you have a hearing loss of 40 dB, you are unable to hear sounds below 40 dB.

When a certain measurement borders two distinct categories, it is referred to it as a combination of the two. Your hearing is considered normal if it can detect sounds between 20-25 decibels. If you can hear only above that range, you are deemed to have hearing loss.
Infographic - Degrees of hearing loss
Mild Hearing Loss
If you have mild hearing loss, you may have trouble hearing sounds under 40 decibels. People often describe this stage as trying to hear someone speak while your fingers are in your ears. You can't detect soft-spoken words, the hum of the refrigerator motor, or the ticking of the clock. If your hearing loss falls into this type, you do not yet have difficulty with loud or more intense vowel sounds. However, you will likely miss some of the softer consonant sounds. If you catch yourself asking people occasionally to speak up because you cannot hear them, you should get a hearing test done by a hearing care professional.
Moderate Hearing Loss
Moderate hearing loss is one step higher on the scale. With this level of hearing impairment, you have trouble hearing sounds below 40 and 70 decibels. At this stage, you will not only miss the soft consonant sounds, but you will find yourself struggling to make out the vowel sounds as well. With moderate loss, you will notice that even though you can hear without your hearing aid, you often can’t understand. At this stage, it is hard for most people to deny or ignore their struggle with this level of hearing loss.
Moderate-to-Severe Hearing Loss
At this stage, whenever you don’t have your hearing aids in place, you do not hear spoken words. You might be extremely frustrated, that even when you do have your hearing device, you can’t always understand what is being said. Turning up the volume level doesn't necessarily make it the conversation any clearer.
Severe Hearing Loss
If you have severe hearing loss, you cannot hear sounds that are below 70 to 90 decibels. Even the sound of a ringing phone could be completely inaudible. To ensure a better quality of life, a hearing aid or a cochlear implant is a must. If you haven't yet, it is essential to make an appointment with a hearing care professional to discuss possible solutions.
Profound Hearing Loss
At the profound hearing loss stage, you can only perceive sounds that are over 90 decibels. Even a very loud noise, like an airplane engine, cannot be heard. Profound hearing loss is a very serious situation, and those afflicted often resort to lipreading in order to communicate. The hearing aid at this point will offer only partial improvements, helping one to hear the sounds of your surroundings and even have some oral communication.
If you or someone you know are showing signs of hearing loss, be sure to see a hearing care professional and get a hearing test done. Only a trained professional can make an assessment, interpret your hearing test results and recommend the best solution.