Pick any two people experiencing hearing loss, and chances are, their needs are very different. That’s because hearing loss is very individual, taking into account both sound frequencies and decibels. Your hearing isn’t so much a “percentage of loss” as it is an ability to hear a range of situations.
An important measurement in hearing is “frequency.” This quantifies the pitch of sounds from very low (like thunder) to very high (like a squeak or whistle). People often experience hearing loss at different frequencies—so even if you listened to a range of sounds at exactly the same volume, you wouldn’t be able to hear them all.
In order to determine the degree of a person’s hearing loss, hearing care professionals will give a series of tests to determine the softest level you can hear a tone in a particular frequency range. This becomes your personal hearing “prescription.”
There are four general degrees of hearing loss:
Mild (26 – 40 dB HL threshold)
With a mild hearing loss, it’s most difficult to hear soft speech or distinguish sounds when there is background noise.
Moderate (41 – 70 dB HL threshold)
Moderate hearing loss makes it difficult to hear conversations, especially when there is background noise. The TV or radio may need to be turned up to be heard clearly.
Severe (71 – 90 dB HL threshold)
With severe hearing loss, normal conversations are not audible. Loud speech may also be difficult to hear or understand. People with severe hearing loss are only able to hear when speech is amplified—by shouting, turning up the volume, or with hearing aids.
Profound (91 dB HL or higher threshold)
People with profound hearing loss may have difficulty understanding even amplified speech.