There is no one-size-fits-all diagnosis when it comes to hearing loss, as each person’s severity is different. When determining your hearing loss your audiologist will measure two factors: which frequencies are hardest for you to hear and how loud a sound needs to be for you to hear it. Understanding these measurements can help ensure you are receiving the best treatment for your type and degree of hearing loss.
How Sounds Are Measured
Sounds are measured in decibels (dB). Anything over 85 dB is considered dangerous as it can caused permanent damage to the delicate hair cells within the inner ear. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention put together a handy chart of noise levels by decibels:
- Normal breathing – 10 dB
- Whisper – 30 dB
- Normal conversation – 60 dB
- City traffic – 80 dB
- Motorcycle – 95 dB
- Sporting events – 100 dB
- Police siren – 120 dB
- Firecracker – 140 dB
In addition to how loud something is, sounds are also measured in frequency, which is measured in Hertz (Hz). A range of 250 Hz to 8000 Hz is measured during a hearing test, as this is the range of normal conversations.
When taken together, these measurements tell your degree of hearing loss.
Degrees of Hearing Loss
There are five distinct degrees of hearing loss.
Slight Hearing Loss
Those with this degree of hearing loss struggle to hear quiets sounds like a whisper, which measures 15 to 20 dB.
Mild Hearing Loss
This hearing loss does not affect one-on-one conversations but can make understanding some words when there is a lot of background noise problematic. Those with this degree of hearing loss struggle to hear sounds between 26 to 40 dB.
Moderate Hearing Loss
You’ll often have to ask people to repeat themselves in person or over the telephone if you experience this degree of hearing loss. People with moderate hearing loss have trouble hearing sounds below 40 to 69 dB.
Severe Hearing Loss
Even with a hearing aid, people with this degree of hearing loss have trouble hearing people when they speak. Those with severe hearing loss cannot hearing sounds below 70 to 94 dB.
Profound Hearing Loss
This is the most severe degree of hearing loss. Those with profound hearing loss find it difficult to understand most sounds without a hearing aid and many rely on sign language to communicate. People with this type of hearing loss cannot hear sounds softer than 95 dB.
Identifying Your Degree of Hearing Loss
Fortunately, identifying your hearing loss is a science, and your audiologist uses a number of carefully calibrated instruments to get the exact numbers. A line graph known as an audiogram will be used as a visual representation of your hearing loss.