Your hearing ability determines your degree of hearing loss, from Minimal to Profound. But hearing is a complex function, unique to each person, and it often changes over time. It is critical that any change in hearing be assessed by an audiologist to determine its severity and appropriate treatment options.
How Is Hearing Loss Measured?
Hearing loss is measured by the volume of sound you can hear and by the frequency (or pitch) of the sounds you can hear (at different volume levels).
Measuring Sound Volume
Sound volume is measured in decibels (dB). Exposure to prolonged sound at 85 dB or louder can cause hearing damage. Here are some common sounds and their typical volume in decibels:
● Watch ticking 20 dB
● Soft whisper 30 dB
● Normal conversation 60 dB
● Dishwasher 70 dB
● Lawnmower 85 dB
● Motorcycle 95 dB
● Shouting in your ear 110 dB
● Standing near sirens 120 dB
Measuring Sound Frequency
Frequency (or pitch) is measured in Hertz (Hz) and is generally classified as low-pitch or high-pitch. Here are a few examples:
● Dogs barking
● Consonant sounds like “j”, “u” and “z”
● Birds chirping
● A child’s squeal
● A woman’s voice
● Consonant sounds like “f”, “s” and “th”
Age-related hearing loss – known medically as presbycusis – affects many people as they get older, and normally results in a loss of hearing at higher frequencies.
As hearing diminishes, higher frequency sounds can generally be heard better at higher volumes. For example, a grandparent may struggle to hear their young grandchild’s normal speech, but can hear their high-pitched screams more easily.
Your audiologist will assess your hearing using sounds across a range of frequencies and at different volumes to determine the exact degree of your hearing loss.
Degrees of Hearing Loss
The following chart can help you understand the different degrees of hearing loss, and how they can impact a person’s life. However, it is important to remember that each person’s experience is unique, even if their degree of hearing loss is the same as another person’s. In addition, a mild hearing loss does not imply a low level of difficulty hearing or communicating.
Degree of Hearing Loss
Can’t Hear Below…
How It Affects You
No difficulty hearing.
May struggle to hear voices whispering or leaves rustling.
One-on-one conversations are generally okay, but can’t understand everything in conversation when there is background noise.
Often asking people to repeat themselves in conversations, in person and over the phone.
Speech sounds distorted and requires amplification to hear. Difficulty communicating with a group.
Can’t hear typical speech without hearing aids or amplification. May rely on lip-reading.
Can only hear extremely loud sounds – requires hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss
No matter how mild your hearing loss, it is important to discuss hearing solutions with your doctor of audiology. Untreated hearing loss, even when mild, is associated with cognitive decline, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Hearing loss is also associated with depression and anxiety, social isolation, and fatigue.
Treatment For Hearing Loss
All degrees of hearing loss can be treated with appropriate hearing aids, and there are a variety of hearing aids on the market to suit different degrees of hearing loss, activity levels, interests and lifestyles.
Talk to your audiologist if you (or a loved one) are having difficulty hearing. Treating your hearing loss with an appropriate solution isn’t just good for your hearing, it’s good for your overall health, well-being, and quality of life!