There are 5 different levels of hearing loss: mild, moderate, moderately-severe, severe and profound.
- Mild Hearing Loss (26 dB- 40dB): this type of hearing loss is often associated with the inability to hear soft sounds. These sounds often include rustling leaves, bird chirping, or the refrigerator humming. A person with a mild hearing loss often has difficulty hearing speech in noisy environments.
- Moderate Hearing Loss (41dB-55dB): This type of hearing loss causes difficulty hearing moderately loud sounds (sound under 41dB). People begin having difficulties with speech sounds, especially the higher frequency speech sounds like /f/, /s/, and /th/. In general, hearing speech with background noise becomes extremely difficult.
- Moderately-Severe Hearing Loss (56-70dB):This type of hearing loss causes difficulty hearing even normal conversation in quiet unless the person of interest begins to raise there voice. Difficulties in groups and in noise continue to become even greater as this group are no longer hearing sounds bellow a normal conversation level.
- Severe Hearing Loss (71dB-90dB): This type of hearing loss creates a communication boundary. People with severe hearing loss are unable to hear speech sounds unless they are produced very loudly. Often people have a hard time participating in group conversation, as listening and following along requires a lot of effort. People with this type of loss have now lost the ability to hear sounds that are produced under 71 dB.
- Profound Hearing Loss (91dB +): Some loud noises are still heard, however, communication is no longer possible even with increased effort. People with this type of hearing loss can no longer hear sounds that are produced under 91dB.
All types of hearing loss hinder our ability to communicate effectively. While this communication boundary is greater in the more severe hearing loss categories, the milder forms of hearing loss also create problems in communication. This communication deficit can be frustrating to those who have hearing loss because communicating and connecting is the foundation of our everyday lives. Fortunately, we do have devices that can help us hear more effectively, which in turn helps with this communication problem. It is important to note that each form of hearing loss, including mild hearing loss, can benefit from hearing aids. Hearing aids can help lessen the communication issue by giving the person more auditory information which is essential in comprehending speech.
(Photo courtesy of Phonak)