Understanding the Degrees of Hearing Loss

Understanding the Degrees of Hearing Loss

When we think of hearing loss, sometimes the more profound forms come to mind first. At the furthest extreme, some people are diagnosed with hearing loss so profound that they are unable to hear very loud sounds above 80 decibels, such as a lawn mower, food blender, or motorcycle. However, the subtler of hearing loss are much more pervasive and can be quite less likely to be diagnosed. In part, this is due to ways in which we accommodate a mild hearing loss in our everyday life, so that it does not immediately appear to be a problem. Let’s take a look at the degrees of hearing loss in order to understand how they are differentiated and where you might fit on the spectrum of hearing ability.

How Hearing Loss is Diagnosed

You may have recently had a hearing test at South Shore Hearing Center and are interested in learning more about hearing loss. During the hearing test, you may remember indicating which sounds you were able to hear during the test by raising your arm or pressing a button. After the test, you were probably shown an audiogram. This graph is a visual depiction of the types of sounds that you were and were not able to hear. An audiogram demonstrates your ability to hear at different degrees of pitch (or frequency) and volume (or amplitude).

These two factors work together to determine your hearing ability at various points of the audible spectrum of sound. For example, if you were able to hear a very high frequency at a very quiet volume, you probably have excellent hearing. On the other hand, if you were unable to hear lower frequency sounds even at very loud volumes, then you probably have a greater degree of hearing impairment. The volume of sounds is measured in decibels, and the decibel level is the unit used to determine the degree of hearing loss, as well.

Mild Hearing Loss

The most common degree of hearing loss is categorized as “mild,” and unfortunately it is the most likely not to be diagnosed. Those with mild hearing loss tend not to go to the audiologist for hearing exams, and they might not even realize that they are losing their hearing. Mild hearing loss is defined as the inability to hear a sound below 40 decibels of volume. Some examples of this loudness include a whisper, rustling leaves, or the sound of normal breathing. Those with mild hearing loss may only have trouble hearing very high-pitched sounds, for example, because these are usually the first to go.

Moderate Hearing Loss

Those with moderate hearing loss are unable to hear sounds in the 40- to 60-decibel range, in addition to the quiet sounds mentioned above. These sounds may be those you would hear in a country home or a quiet office. Those with moderate hearing loss often have trouble understanding conversation without the assistance of hearing aids, particularly when conversations take place in noisy environments.

Severe and Profound Hearing Loss

Beyond these more common forms of hearing loss, more advanced forms require special assistance in order to be able to hear. Severe hearing loss includes sounds up to 80 decibels, such as a loud appliance like a vacuum cleaner or hair dryer. Beyond severe hearing loss, as mentioned previously, profound hearing loss includes all sounds that a listener is unable to hear beyond the volume of 80 decibels. These two forms of hearing impairment may come from gradual loss over the lifetime, but others suffer this type of hearing loss from a single hearing-related event. In yet other cases, a person may be born with this type of hearing impairment.

Understanding Hearing Loss… and Taking Action!

If you have an inkling that you may have some form of hearing loss, it is important to seek out a hearing exam right away. Even if you have had an exam in the recent past, it is not a bad idea to have your hearing checked again. Serious effects can result from coping with hearing loss without assistance, and links have even been documented with dementia and cognitive decline for those who have unassisted hearing loss. Even if you find it difficult to hear quiet sounds at a high frequency, don’t hesitate to schedule a hearing exam and to take action! Contact us at South Shore Hearing Center today to schedule an appointment.