4 Classifications of Degree of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss cases vary depending on the degree of severity. Knowing this is necessary so that hearing professionals can recommend a type of hearing aid that is suitable for your specific needs. Generally, there are 4 levels of hearing loss: mild, moderate, severe, and profound.

In order to understand hearing loss better, it is worthy to know how sound is measured first. The unit decibels (dB) is used as a measure of the intensity of sound on which we perceive as loudness. On the other hand, the frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz) and we perceive it as pitch. To give you an idea, the decibel level of a normal conversation is around 55-60 dB, while the decibel level of a gunshot is around 140 dB.

4 Classifications of Degree of Hearing Loss

The following describes each classification of degree of hearing loss according to World Health Organization (WHO).

1. Mild Hearing Loss

Individuals with this level of hearing loss cannot hear sounds that are lower or softer than 26 dB. People with mild hearing loss are still able to carry out one-on-one conversations but may have a hard time understanding soft-spoken people, young children, and distant speeches. They can hear loud and more intense vowel sounds but may oftentimes miss out the softer consonant sounds.

Intervention for Mild Hearing Losses: For some people, the use of hearing aids may not be necessary but may still be advised for those who are experiencing difficulty understanding speech. The configuration of hearing loss, speech discrimination scores, quality of life, are some of the things that may be considered prior to hearing aid use.

2. Moderate Hearing Loss

Individuals with this level of hearing loss cannot hear sounds lower or softer than 41 dB. People with moderate hearing loss may already have difficulty carrying out conversations both personal and over the phone, that’s why they tend to ask people to repeat themselves when talking. Not only do they miss out hearing consonant sounds but vowel sounds become harder to catch too.

Intervention for Moderate Hearing Losses: Use of Hearing aids

3. Severe Hearing Loss

Individuals with this level of hearing loss cannot hear sounds lower or softer than 71 dB. People with severe hearing loss rely on lip-reading to understand a person talking. As normal conversations are inaudible, they need hearing aids or other amplification devices in order to hear.

Intervention for Severe Hearing Loss: Use of  Hearing aids is highly recommended.

4. Profound Hearing Loss

Individuals with this level of hearing loss cannot hear sounds lower or softer than 91 dB. People with profound hearing loss can only recognize extremely loud sounds. But even in this loudness, they still can’t understand speech without hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Intervention for Profound Hearing Losses: Use of Hearing aids or cochlear implants

How Hearing Loss Can Be Measured

One’s degree of hearing loss can only be measured with the help of a professional. The best way to go about this is to schedule an appointment with a trusted hearing aid and testing center as soon as possible. The sooner you decide to take action, the sooner you can put an end to the many possible negative effects of unresolved hearing loss.

If you want to get an idea of what happens during a hearing test, you may find this blog post very helpful.

If any of the descriptions above fit you or your loved one, we recommend contacting us today.

Symptoms of Hearing Loss

Symptoms of hearing loss differ from person to person and situation to situation, but usually include the following:

  • Hearing speech and other sounds as muffled or indistinct
  • Difficulty understanding speech, especially in environments with a lot of background noise or competing voices
  • Trouble hearing specific sounds, such as consonants
  • Frequently asking others to repeat themselves, speak more slowly, or raise their voices
  • Need to turn up radio or television audio even when others aren’t having difficulty hearing (or complain volume is now too loud)
  • Withdrawal from participation in conversations and avoiding social situations
  • Experiencing exhaustion after family, social, or professional gatherings due to the strain of trying to keep up with conversations

If you experience one or more of these symptoms, it is time to get your hearing professionally evaluated. Hearing tests can be conducted by a trained hearing care professional (HCP) like an audiologist or hearing aid dispenser. HCPs work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, ENT doctor’s offices, and private practices.

A Full Hearing Check

A hearing evaluation will include a thorough review of your hearing history to evaluate you might have a loss and the degree and nature of hearing loss. The HCP will start by taking a complete case history, which is necessary to determine the situations in which you feel hearing problems are present. You will discuss your medical history to see if there are reasons to suspect hearing loss based on existing or potential medical conditions, injuries to the head or ears, age, or particular medication. You will also be asked about your genetic history to determine if hearing loss may run in your family (congenital).

After the history is obtained, your HCP will use an instrument called an otoscope to look into your ears to be sure the canals are free of wax buildup or other debris, which can cause or contribute to hearing loss.

During the next phase of assessment, you will be asked to listen to and repeat some words, and also to listen and react to some beeps. Both are used to determine to what degree you can hear soft speech. It is also necessary to listen to beeps at various frequencies to find out which pitches are most impacted by your hearing loss.

What Happens if Hearing Loss is Confirmed

Your HCP will look at the results from all tests and measurements to determine if you have hearing loss, as well as the nature and degree of the loss. Treatment recommendations will depend on the cause of your hearing loss and the effect it is having on your life. For some people treating hearing loss is a simple as removing excess wax from the ear canal. Others have fluid in their middle ear or other medical causes that can be treated with medication or surgery. But the best solution for many will be hearing aids.

The first step to treating hearing loss is recognizing there is a problem and taking steps to address it. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above (or someone you care about is) then it’s time for a professional evaluation. And if you need help finding a hearing care professional in your area, simply click on the link and we will help you find one.

What is Hearing Loss

Hearing problems can occur in all parts of the ear. Conductive hearing loss involving the outer or middle ear can sometimes be treated with medication or surgery. However, a good 80 percent of all hearing loss is caused by dysfunctions of, or damage to, the inner ear, also known as sensorineural hearing loss. Some people experience both, while still others are only able to hear out of one ear. Fortunately, thanks to modern advances in technology, today’s hearing aids can compensate for most inner ear-related difficulties and other forms of hearing loss.

No two cases of hearing loss are the same. Most often people with hearing loss are unable to distinguish soft tones and high-pitched sounds and have difficulties hearing whispers, children’s voices, or birdsong. Others can’t hear low tones, like deep voices. Still, others experience difficulties hearing high and low sounds. Whatever your challenges, the first step is an accurate diagnosis of your form of hearing loss, along with an assessment of how severe it is and what can be done to treat it.

Don’t ignore hearing loss.
Hearing loss interferes with your life in many ways you might not realize. The following have all been associated with untreated hearing loss:

  • Decreased attention
  • Diminished understanding of speech
  • Trouble communicating with others
  • Diminished memory
  • Unwillingness to embrace the unknown
  • Decline in job performance
  • Lack of acknowledgement by others
  • Irritability, stress, depression
  • Withdrawal from social life (isolation)

Be proactive with your hearing health by learning more about it. Once you understand how much it can disrupt your enjoyment of life we hope you’ll be ready to do something about it.

How Hearing Works

Many people with the ability to hear take their ears for granted. We don’t think about how they work, or what we’ll do when they stop working. If you are capable of hearing, you likely pick up on millions of sounds every day. Even the ones you don’t register are processed and filtered by your brain as background noise. Every single noise is sifted through, allowing you to pick up on unusual sounds, speech, and possible threats. However, many people neglect their ears. This article will touch on the importance of our ears.

Parts of the Ear

When referring to the ears, many people only think of the part we are capable of seeing. This includes the shell of your ear, as well as the ear canal. However, there’s more ground to cover than this. The ear consists of many parts, which work in tandem to help you hear. If one of these parts fails to perform properly, your hearing will be affected.

The outer ear includes the auricle, or your visible ear, the ear canal, and the eardrum. Beyond that is the middle ear, which consists of your ossicles. These are three little bones known as the malleus, incus, and stapes. The Eustachian tube is also included in the middle ear and helps regulate pressure. Your inner ear is located farther inside. Your cochlea is located here, as well as your vestibule and semicircular canals.

How Do We Hear?

Our visible ear is specially designed to funnel sound into our ear canal. From there, the vibrations travel down the ear canal and strike the tympanic membrane, or eardrum. The eardrum vibrates, and these vibrations interact with the ossicles. The ossicles vibrate, amplifying the sound and sending it farther into the ear towards the cochlea.

The cochlea is a spiral-shaped organ that’s filled with fluid and lined with microscopic, fine hairs. These hairs convert the vibrations into nerve impulses that can be processed. Finally, these signals are sent through the auditory nerve to the brain, where they are filtered through and registered as sound.

Much like breathing or pumping blood, this complicated process is occurring every moment of every day, and even continues while you’re sleeping or unaware. If you’ve ever been awoken by a sound in the night, that’s because your ears are working overtime to keep you safe and semi-aware of your surroundings.

Types of Hearing Problems

Because hearing involves so many specific parts, there are many things that can go wrong. Different parts of the hearing chain can break down, leaving you unable to process or hear certain sounds. Loud noises, old age, and even brain injury can result in a loss of hearing.

These losses can be mild, or seriously profound. There are many types of hearing problems, and functional hearing loss exists as well. These are instances where your hearing is not completely gone but hindered in some way by an ongoing issue. Many forms of hearing loss are permanent, while others can be solved with medical intervention. Inventions like hearing aids can alleviate hearing loss as well.

In order to discuss the treatment of hearing loss, let’s explore the different types of hearing problems.

Auditory neuropathy. A condition in which the auditory nerve is affected. This can be caused by a number of factors and affect the hearing in varying ways. This is an issue with the brain and nerves, not the ears themselves.

Sensorineural hearing loss. This is an issue with the fine hairs inside the cochlea. As they become worn down or damaged, the ability to hear is impacted. This is the most common form of hearing loss, especially among seniors and people in high-noise environments.

Conductive hearing loss. This occurs when there is a blockage within the middle ear. This blockage can be caused by fluid, a tumor, or earwax muffling the transmission of sound waves from the outer ear. Usually, the issue is solved after the blockage is removed.

Mixed hearing loss. This isn’t necessarily a type of hearing loss, but a combination of sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. Where sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, the conductive hearing loss can be solved, alleviating the condition.

Tinnitus. This is not a condition, but rather a symptom of another issue. Tinnitus is caused by other factors, usually sensorineural hearing loss. In order to treat the tinnitus, you need to treat the root issue.

Causes of Hearing Loss

Many cases of hearing loss occur at birth, or within the first few years of life. These are typically genetic or caused by complications during the pregnancy or birth. Illnesses like meningitis, measles, or mumps can also cause hearing loss. However, many people who suffer hearing loss later in life experience it due to infection or long-term exposure to extreme sound.

Hypertension, diabetes, and other conditions can also put you at risk of hearing loss. If you’re worried about your hearing this World Hearing Day, the only surefire way to avoid hearing loss is to be aware of your surroundings and avoid situations where the volume can become detrimental. Wear earplugs if you work in an environment with high sounds, such as firing ranges, construction sites, and concert halls.

If you regularly find yourself listening to loud music over speakers or through headphones, consider turning down the volume. Many young people are experiencing hearing loss and tinnitus at younger ages, due to overexposure to loud music.

The only way to treat hearing loss is to recognize it and seek help. However, many people live with hearing loss so long that they don’t know they have it. The human brain is extremely good at adaptation and will adjust itself over time to accommodate for your hearing loss. However, the longer you go without treatment, the more intense the condition will become.

In order to prevent further damage, you must act. Knowing how the ear works is the first step to recognizing issues when they arise. Get your hearing tested often, and don’t hesitate to speak to an audiologist if you think there might be an issue with your hearing. If you do develop some form of hearing loss, identifying it early on can save you from further damage, and prevent stress, mental issues, and other side effects.

Impact of Hearing Loss

By seeing, you learned to recognize your father’s smile. By tasting, you learned you preferred peaches to spinach. And by hearing, you were lulled to sleep by your mother’s singing.

The reduction or loss of one of your senses has a pronounced effect on your ability to participate in life, and the lives of those you care about. Losing your hearing can be particularly disturbing because it is often associated with aging and loss of vitality.

The truth is hearing loss affects people of all ages and can be caused by a number of conditions besides growing old. The result is a life of increased isolation and loss of experiences and relationships that takes a profound toll emotionally, physically, and professionally.

Hearing Loss Takes An Emotional Toll

“I find myself losing my temper with my grandchildren because they mumble all the time.”

“Everyone cracked up when the boss asked me about last month’s numbers, and I thought she said something about the sand in summer. I don’t speak up in meetings anymore.”

“I stopped going to my weekly mah-jongg game because I’m tired of asking everyone to repeat themselves—and I can tell they’re sick of it, too.”

“Everyone cracked up when the boss asked me about last month’s numbers, and I thought she said something about the sand in summer. I don’t speak up in meetings anymore.”

Do any of these sound familiar? Even if you haven’t experienced these exact scenarios, the emotions they evoke probably still resonate. The National Council on Aging studied the consequences of untreated hearing loss and found sufferers experience the following common feelings:

  • Sadness
  • Frustration
  • Embarrassment
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Insecurity
  • Anger
  • Loss of self-confidence

Loss of hearing interferes with your ability to enjoy recreation, vacation, hobbies, and other pastimes and takes you out of the social scene. The resulting loneliness and isolation rob you of precious years.

Hearing Loss Can Have A Physical Impact

Hearing loss is often a symptom or outcome of other medical conditions (comorbidities), which can be very serious or even life-threatening. These are yet another reason not to ignore the symptoms of hearing loss. More than your hearing may be at stake.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is one of the top causes of death. Poor cardiovascular health causes inadequate blood flow throughout your body, and one of the first signs of a problem is blood vessel trauma to your inner ear, resulting in damage to fragile hearing nerves. The outcome is hearing loss, particularly at the lower frequencies. The results of at least one major study showed a “significant association” between low-frequency hearing loss and dangerous outcomes of cardiovascular disease, including strokes, coronary artery disease, and heart attacks.

Dementia

Despite the results of multiple studies linking hearing loss to the onset of dementia, many people remain unaware that leaving a hearing loss untreated poses a threat to cognitive health. The more profound the loss of hearing the greater the likelihood of cognitive decline. Hearing loss has also been associated with more rapid brain shrinkage, affecting areas of the brain responsible for processing speech, sound, memory, and sensory integration.

Theories as to why hearing loss a likely factor in the development of dementia in some patients point to straining to hear and understand despite hearing loss exhausting your mind and inhibiting its ability to function at peak performance. Also, If you cannot hear well you probably try to avoid social interactions requiring you to hold up a conversation despite noise and crowds. Isolation is an established contributor to mental decline.

Hearing Loss Can Damage Your Career

Hearing loss affects not only your personal life but can cause major disruptions in your professional life, as well. While mild hearing loss may not interfere with your job, worsening hearing quickly takes its toll. Maybe you’ve resisted getting hearing aids before now because you’re concerned they’ll make you appear “over the hill” to employers. Ironically, not treating hearing loss is far more likely to cost you with regards to employment, promotions, salary increases, and job security.

One study examined the link between hearing loss and unemployment. The conclusion was that working-age adults who experienced hearing loss were more likely to be unemployed than their hearing counterparts. On average, those with hearing loss also earned significantly less than co-workers with normal hearing.

Now, are you ready to figure out if you or someone you care about has a hearing problem?

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