You’ve likely heard the terms “deaf” and “hard of hearing” used to describe people with hearing loss, but not everyone knows the distinction. Below we cover the levels of hearing loss, the distinction between “deafness” and “being hard of hearing,” and the treatment options available.
Levels of Hearing Loss
The difference between being deaf and being hard of hearing lies in the degree of your hearing loss. There are five basic levels audiologists use to describe severity of hearing loss:
- Mild hearing loss describes difficulty hearing sounds in the 25 to 34 dB range. People with this level may have difficulty catching subtle differences in sounds, and may miss sounds like birds chirping or leaves rustling.
- Moderate hearing loss is trouble hearing sounds between 35 and 49 dB. This means keeping up with conversations at normal volume is difficult, especially when there is background noise.
- Moderately severe hearing loss translates to difficulty with sounds between 50 and 64 dB. Most people with this level of hearing loss cannot follow a conversation without assistance.
- Severe hearing loss means problems hearing sounds between 65 and 79 dB. This level of loss requires powerful hearing aids and/or lip reading for communication.
- Profound hearing loss is inability to hear sounds over 80 dB. While very loud sounds may be detectable, communication is not possible without some sort of implant, lip reading and/or sign language.
So Where’s the Line?
People with mild to severe hearing loss are considered hard of hearing. In essence, “hard of hearing” defines hearing loss where some hearing capability is still present.
On the other hand, “deafness” refers to profound hearing loss, where there is very little hearing ability remaining or none at all.
According to the Global Burden of Disease, any hearing loss above 35 dB is considered “disabling.”
Treating Hearing Loss
An audiologist can determine the best treatment plan for your level of hearing loss. Common recommendations include:
- Earwax removal
- Hearing aids
- Assistive listening devices
- Cochlear implants
- Bone-anchored hearing aids
- Corrective surgery
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the Hearing & Balance Center at Charleston ENT today.