From a mild problem to profound deafness, there are different levels of hearing loss. Each person is an individual, but if you are struggling with your hearing, then it’s helpful to have an idea of where you are on the scale.
Hearing Loss vs Deafness
To start with, do you know there is a technical difference between hearing loss and deafness? Hearing loss refers to a difficulty hearing sounds globally, like music, traffic noise, and speech. Deafness more specifically refers to difficulty hearing and interpreting speech and language. These days we prefer the term “hearing loss” to “deafness,” as it more correctly reflects the wider impact of this hidden disability.
The Scale of Hearing Loss
Mild Hearing Loss
In practical terms, sounds appear muffled, as if the speaker is mumbling, but in reality, they are speaking normally.
In scientific terms a person with mild hearing loss struggles to hear sound below the 25-29 dB range. Typically this means if someone sitting six feet away was whispering in a library, you wouldn’t hear them.
Mild hearing loss is just that, but in a noisy environment such as a restaurant or station, with other sounds competing for attention, it is difficult to follow a conversation. Amplification of the close conversation with the use of a discrete in-the-canal hearing aid can reclaim your ability to converse in busy places.
And don’t be tempted to underestimate the impact of mild hearing loss. Most of our social activities take place against a noisy background, so it can be tempting to withdraw from such situations if your self-confidence takes a hit.
Moderate Hearing Loss
This level of listening impairment means it’s difficult to follow a conversation held in a normal speaking voice, even in a quiet environment. Typically, the ability to hear starts for sounds louder than 40 – 69 dB, which is slightly above the volume of someone speaking three feet away.
Moderate hearing loss needs addressing because of the potential impact on social interaction and relationships. If you don’t hear your partner talking, there is a risk they feel they are being ignored. Equally, if you’re constantly asking them to repeat themselves, it does away with impromptu murmuring of sweet nothings and impacts intimacy within a relationship.
Also consider what the need to turn the volume up on the TV has on others in the house with normal hearing. Be aware that modern hearing devices are often extremely discrete and sophisticated to meet all your listening needs.
Severe Hearing Loss
Technically, this means the sufferer only hears extremely loud noises, over 70-89 dB, which includes sounds such as city traffic and jackhammers.
Hearing devices can help, especially when worn in both ears, and you can learn other communication skills. Your audiologist can help you learn speech reading and aural rehabilitation strategies, which are a tremendous help in keeping up with conversation.