From Mild to Profound: Understanding The Different Degrees of Hearing Loss

Whether you have acquired your hearing loss over time or were simply born with it, every member of the hard of hearing community has a unique degree of hearing loss that affects them in their own way. Though hearing loss is complex and unique to each person, the severity of your hearing loss can be measured by two separate means: Which frequencies are harder to hear, and how loud does a sound need to be before you can hear it. As our hearing loss progresses due to age or underlying factors, these two measurements can change, increasing the severity of your hearing loss and affecting the day to day lives of 48 million Americans with hearing loss.

How Do We Measure The Volume of Sounds?

To determine what volumes are healthy and dangerous for our hearing, we measure them in units called Decibels (dB). Prolonged exposure to sounds louder than 85 dB can begin to damage your hearing, and can result in you requiring sounds to be louder and louder to hear than what you used to need.
Here are some examples of common sounds and their average decibel levels, highlighting what volume levels you should avoid:

  • Average noise inside your home: 40 dB
  • Normal conversation or background music: 60 dB
  • Vacuum Cleaner: 80 dB

Remember, any sounds above 85 dB are harmful to your hearing.

  • Motorcycle: 100 dB
  • Rock Concert: 120 dB
  • Gunshot: 140 dB

What Frequencies Are Heard With Healthy Hearing?

Frequency, or Pitch, is measured in Hertz (Hz), and measures the number of soundwave cycles that can occur in one second. For example, a frequency of 1 Hz means one wave cycle per second. When testing for hearing loss, frequencies used for speech communication are examined, ranging from 250 Hz to 8000 Hz. With healthy hearing, you should be able to hear this important frequency range.

The Varying Degrees of Hearing Loss

For the deaf or hard of hearing community, each member’s hearing loss is unique and varies in severity. When measured together by a hearing health professional, the frequencies that you can hear, and at what volume you can hear them at, can outline your specific type of hearing loss.

Slight Hearing Loss

For those struggling to hear sounds quieter than 15 such as whispering, you may be diagnosed with Slight Hearing Loss. This level of hearing loss can sometimes make listening to speech difficult, but is more difficult for children to undergo during critical times in their development. Hearing aids are used to help children with slight hearing loss in speech development.

Mild to Moderate Hearing Loss

For those with mild to moderate hearing loss, it can be difficult to hear sounds lower than 69 dB. This level of hearing loss often results in asking others to repeat themselves in conversations, but can be effectively treated with a hearing aid.

Profound Hearing Loss

Patients with Profound Hearing Loss can only hear sounds at extremely high volumes, and even that is difficult to understand. Most require hearing aids or a cochlear implant, and may use sign language to communicate. People with this severe level of hearing loss cannot hear sounds under 95 dB.
If you are struggling with hearing loss and are not sure how severe your case may be, seek out the medical advice of a hearing health professional. A hearing evaluation can help you better understand your degree of hearing loss and the treatment options that are available.


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