Hearing loss is very individual. That’s why a specialized exam is necessary to determine the degree of loss you may have. The typical test for hearing loss consists of listening to a range of tones presented to each ear through earphones. Your perceived loudness levels of these tones — as measured in decibels (dB) — are recorded on a graph called an audiogram. Perhaps surprisingly, hearing isn’t described as an overall “percentage of loss,” but as the inability to hear a range of different frequencies. That’s why any two people with hearing loss will have very different experiences and needs.
“Frequency” is an important measurement in hearing, quantifying the pitch of sounds from very low (like thunder) to very high (like a squeak or whistle). People often experience hearing loss at different frequencies — so even when people listen to a range of sounds at exactly the same volume, they hear them quite differently, or may not be able to hear some of them at all.
In order to determine the degree of a person’s hearing loss, a hearing care professional can perform threshold testing to determine the lowest dB level at which you can hear a tone in a particular frequency range. Your response to these different frequencies becomes your personal hearing diagnosis.
There are four general degrees of hearing loss on an audiogram:
Mild (26 – 40 dB HL threshold)
With mild hearing loss, it’s difficult to hear soft speech or distinguish sounds when there is background noise, putting these listeners at a disadvantage in many everyday social and working situations.
Moderate (41 – 70 dB HL threshold)
Moderate hearing loss makes it difficult to hear conversations, especially when there is background noise. The TV or radio volume may need to be turned up to be heard clearly. Following conversations takes more effort and may leave you feeling especially tired at the end of the day.
Severe (71 – 90 dB HL threshold)
With severe hearing loss, normal conversations are not audible. Even louder than normal speech may be difficult to hear or understand. People with severe hearing loss are only able to hear speech when it is amplified — by shouting, turning up the volume, or with the assistance of high-power hearing aids. Social isolation can be a real concern for this population.
Profound (91 dB HL or higher threshold)
People with profound hearing loss may have difficulty understanding even amplified speech. They may avoid conversations and become extremely isolated in both personal and professional situations. This can be devastating if unaddressed.
If you have concerns about your own hearing loss, or that of a loved one, you should consider a hearing check-up and evaluation. There are modern hearing aid solutions available for mild to severe to profound hearing losses. These solutions are powerful, discreet and filled with technology that delivers clear, natural sound, while automatically suppressing the background noise that interferes with speech understanding.
There’s no need to suffer in silence and isolation. Today, advanced and innovative technology can meet a wide variety of challenges that may accompany hearing loss. We can put your mind at ease and help you find a hearing solution that best fits your hearing loss and lifestyle by conducting a hearing test to pinpoint the degree and characteristics of your own hearing loss.