To understand severity of hearing loss, you want to know how it is categorized. Data is received from either a hearing screening or evaluation that tests and isolates each ear. The results of the screening are then shown through an audiogram. Audiograms are graphs with the vertical axis representing loudness (dB) and horizontal axis representing pitch(Hz). The top of the graph at 0dB doesn’t mean complete silence. It just means that sound at normal hearing is detected at least half the time. We’ll describe a scenario of two friends (Adam and Becky) talking at lunch at in a busy restaurant. We’ll look at how different severities of hearing loss can affect Adam.
Normal Hearing is between -10dB to 20dB. Adam and Becky can carry on a conversation without trouble or assistance.
Mild Hearing Loss is when the softest sounds Adam can hear are between the 21dB and 40dB range. Imagine cupping your hand over your ears while doing everyday life. You can still hear sound but it is muffled to some degree. That is close to what mild hearing loss would be. Adam can hear Becky talk but can have trouble hearing her at the table, and might have to sit closer to Becky to hear what she’s saying.
Moderate Hearing Loss is between the 41dB and 70dB range. This is when hearing assistance will come in to consideration. Adam will want to bring his hearing aid to lunch. Without it he is going to have a very difficult time hearing Becky or won’t be able to hear her at all. Adam may have to ask Becky to repeat what she said.
Severe Hearing Loss is between 71dB to 95dB. Hearing aids are absolutely recommended and possibly the idea of cochlear implants. Although Adam is wearing his hearing aids while listening to Becky, he will also want to pay attention to other hearing cues such as lip reading, paying attention to her expressions, and noticing gestures to help keep up with the conversation.
Profound Hearing Loss is 95dB+. Adam and those with profound hearing loss may use a hearing aid although it won’t be as beneficial compared to those with less severity. A category that is described as hard of hearing, Adam may have to depend solely on cochlear implants to hear Becky or use other means to communicate such as sign language and lip reading.