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Understanding the Levels of Hearing Loss and Treatments for Each

Levels of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is generally described as a partial or total inability to hear sounds or noises and can occur suddenly, e.g., noise-induced hearing loss, or gradually with age. This condition can occur in children, teenagers, younger adults, and even infants. Loss of hearing can make it difficult for you to communicate or respond within your environment.

However, if you suffer from hearing loss, it's not the end of the world. The team at North Shore Hearing P.C. offer several innovative solutions designed to help restore your ability to experience the world. Best of all, we offer free hearing screenings and consultations, so you can know where you stand. Continue reading to learn more about the different levels of hearing loss and treatments for each.

How Common is Hearing Loss?

According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, about 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 infants in the US are born with a detectable degree of hearing loss (congenital) affecting one or both ears. Additionally, about 15 percent (37.5 million) of adults in the US 18 and older report a degree of hearing trouble. Besides being born with a reduced ability to hear, earwax buildup or blockage, ear infection, ruptured eardrum, and long-term exposure to noise commonly cause loss of hearing.

Types of Hearing Loss

Levels of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss could be temporary or permanent. The different hearing loss levels listed below are based on speech or sound frequencies used to measure how well you hear. The severity of the loss is usually measured from your better ear using the decibels hearing loss level (dBHL) range which is influenced by the amount of inner or outer hair loss in the ear:

  • Normal: You can hear quiet sounds from -15 to 20 dB HL.
  • Slight: Soft sounds are audible on a range of 16 to 25 dBHL. You hear during one-on-one conversations but not if the speech level is below 16 dBHL.
  • Mild: The level of loss in your better ear is between 26 to 40 dBHL. You likely have difficulty following speech in a noisy environment.
  • Moderate: The level of loss is between 41 to 55 dB HL. You are unable to follow speech or make out consonants and vowel sounds without wearing a hearing aid.
  • Moderately severe: The loss is between 56 to 70 dBHL. Speech is inaudible without hearing aids and still difficult to understand with hearing aids. Amplifying the hearing device does not necessarily make speech clearer.
  • Severe: The loss is between 71 to 90 dB HL. Speech is inaudible without hearing aids or implants.
  • Profound: The loss is 91+ dB HL. You rely mainly on an implant, lip-reading, or sign language to hear.

When to Test Your Hearing

If you are experiencing any of the following signs in one or both ears, it may be time to see your audiologist:

  • Speech sounds muffled or slurred
  • You ask people to repeat themselves
  • Trouble hearing with noise in the background
  • Certain types of sounds seem unusually loud in one ear
  • Difficulty following speech when two or more people are talking
  • Difficulty telling the difference between high-pitched sounds, e.g., "s" or "th"
  • Less trouble hearing when men speak, but not women
  • Ear feels stuffy or full
  • Difficulty hearing the radio, TV, or when talking on the phone

How is Hearing Loss Diagnosed?

Hearing loss is an invisible condition that can only be properly diagnosed by doing a comprehensive hearing screening. The audiologist will do various tests to measure how much sounds you or your child hear. You may have to listen to speech sounds or pure sounds in one or both ears. The results are then indicated on a chart called an audiogram. Screening also helps to determine the type of hearing loss present and whether hearing aids or other treatments are necessary.

Hearing Loss Treatment

Treatment will depend on the type and level of loss you are diagnosed with but could include:

Clearing earwax blockage: Blockage due to earwax causes only a temporary loss in hearing. Your doctor may use a suction method or a small tool to remove the earwax causing slight to mild hearing loss.

  1. Hearing aids: Hearing aids are typically needed for moderate to severe hearing loss such as when the ear is damaged. Various types of hearing aids are available to help amplify sounds reaching the ear. Your audiologist can recommend one that may benefit you the most.
  2. Assistive listening devices (ALDs): These can be used with or without hearing aids and help to enhance your hearing experience when watching TV, talking on the phone, or listening to the radio. It may be suitable for persons with mild to moderate hearing loss.
  3. Surgical procedures: Your doctor may recommend surgery if your hearing loss is due to abnormalities in the eardrum, repeated infections or persistent fluid buildup. A tiny tube is used to drain the ear in the case of fluid buildup.
  4. Cochlear implants: This treatment is reserved for severe to profound hearing loss. Instead of amplifying sounds, implants work by directly stimulating the hearing nerve.
  5. Lip reading: You may need to learn speechreading which involves observing lip, facial, and tongue movements to understand what others are saying. It is suitable for people with profound hearing loss but not those born with a hearing impairment.
  6. Sign language: This type of language is suitable for people who have permanent or profound hearing loss or are deaf. It involves using hand signs, facial expressions, and body movements but without sounds. It is used mainly by those who are deaf.

Contact North Shore Hearing P.C. Today

If you've been experiencing any type of hearing loss, the experts at North Shore Hearing P.C. can help. Contact us today to schedule a free hearing consultation.

Diane Faulknor, MA, CCC/A

After 18 years of experience in the field of audiology and hearing aid dispensing, I felt it was time to start my own practice which has led to the creation of North Shore Hearing, P.C. I take pride in the care I provide for my patients as hearing is not just a medical issues we need to deal with, but also the social and lifestyle ramifications that people with poor hearing live with on a day-to-day basis. Based on not only your hearing loss, but also the type of lifestyle you lead, we'll work together to fit you with the most appropriate hearing aid available in today's marketplace.