When someone is professionally diagnosed with a hearing loss, he or she is typically told the degree of their hearing loss – mild, moderate, severe, or profound. The degree of hearing loss, as the names suggest, indicate the severity of the hearing loss measured as the difference between hearing thresholds. A mild hearing loss ranges from 20 to 40 dB, moderate from 40 to 60 dB, severe from 60 to 85 dB, and profound is anything 85 and above. Each degree of hearing loss has different effects on the patient’s daily life.
Mild Hearing Loss
Patients diagnosed with mild hearing loss often report being able to hear a conversation, but having trouble understanding it. “Patients with a mild hearing loss have difficulty hearing soft talking, clocks ticking, rustling paper, running water, and birds singing,” Concept Audiologist Melissa Hamerlinck explains. “Soft consonant sounds that give us the ability to discriminate speech, such as ‘f,’ ‘th,’ ‘k,’ and ‘p’ are also difficult for them to hear.” Recognizing words is especially difficult for these patients in situations with a lot of background noise, like a restaurant or social gathering.
Moderate Hearing Loss
“For patients with a moderate hearing loss, having a conversation is noticeably difficult,” Melissa states. “They are unable to hear clearly at normal conversation levels, and often need people to speak loudly to hear the what is being said.” Moderate hearing loss can affect a person’s daily life substantially. For example, those with this degree of hearing loss cannot hear louder sounds, like crying babies or dogs barking.
Severe Hearing Loss
When a patient has a severe hearing loss, conversational speech at normal levels cannot be heard. “This patient has difficulty in both quiet and noisy situations, and may rely heavily on visual cues like lip reading,” Melissa explains. Patients with a severe hearing loss cannot hear sounds such as a phone ringing or a vacuum cleaner running.
Profound Hearing Loss
“Those with profound hearing loss are generally considered to be ‘deaf’ or ‘totally impaired’, and rely on lip reading and sign language to communicate,” Melissa says. To put a profound hearing loss into perspective, patients with this degree of loss cannot hear power tools, lawn mowers, or vehicle motors.
Each hearing loss is unique to each patient. However, these general descriptions should give you an idea of what someone with a certain degree of hearing loss experiences.