Degrees Of Hearing Loss: How Bad Is Your Hearing Really? - Attune
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Degrees Of Hearing Loss: How Bad Is Your Hearing Really?

Degrees Of Hearing Loss

Do you ever struggle to communicate in noisy environments or miss the sound of ringing phones and doorbells? 

You might not like to admit it to yourself, but you may well be one out of six Australians who suffer from hearing loss. 

As you see, you’re not alone in your struggles! In fact, with an ever-ageing population, hearing loss is projected to soon become a lot more common. 

  • By 2050, one in four Australians is expected to have a hearing loss. 

But how bad is your hearing loss really? And what can you do about it? 

Before we take a look at the different degrees, types and causes of hearing loss, please know that only a trained and qualified audiologist can assess your hearing and address your needs properly.

We highly recommend you seek professional care should you have any concerns about your hearing at all. 

If you’d like to book a hearing test near you, visit Attune Hearing. 

How is Hearing Loss Measured?

To describe different levels or degrees of hearing loss, you first need to understand how hearing is quantified. 

During a hearing test, your audiologist will assess two things: Your ability to hear sounds of a certain loudness and pitch. 

The assessment result will be charted on a graph called an audiogram.

The Loudness of Sounds

The Pitch of Sounds

  • The loudness of sounds is measured in decibels (Db). 
  • The pitch of sounds is measured in units called hertz (Hz).
  • In a hearing test, decibels are used to describe how loud a sound must be for you to hear it. 
  • In a hearing test, hertz is used to describe how high or low a sound must be for you to hear it. 
  • The higher the decibel level at which you can’t hear a sound (the louder a sound), the greater the level of your hearing loss. 
  • Hearing certain pitches is vital for speech and music perception and sound localisation (where sounds are coming from). 
  • Your hearing threshold is the sound level below which you cannot hear sound. In other words – the higher your threshold, the more significant your hearing loss. 
  • This threshold would be between 0-25 dB for a ‘normal’ hearing person. At this point, you might struggle to hear distant speech or whispering – which is nothing to worry about. 

The Hearing Health Foundation (HHF), an independent nonprofit organisation that funds hearing and balance research in the U.S., recognises five levels of hearing loss.

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF)

The different levels of hearing loss are broken down as follows:

Degree/level of hearing loss Characterised by:You may experience the following:
Mild Hearing LossA difficulty hearing sounds quieter than 41 decibels to 55 decibels
  • Trouble following everyday conversations, mainly when background noise is present 
Moderate Hearing LossA difficulty hearing sounds quieter than 56 to 70 decibels
  • A nearby washing machine or dishwasher will sound very quiet
  • You may struggle to hear speech without a hearing aid
Severe Hearing LossA difficulty hearing sounds quieter than 71 to 90 decibels
  • Nearby motorcycles and cars sound quiet 
Profound Hearing LossA difficulty hearing sounds quieter than 91 decibels
  • At this point, even traffic and fire alarms may be difficult to hear without a hearing device

different levels of hearing loss

Source: Summerlin 

The Causes of Hearing Loss 

Knowing the level of hearing loss isn’t quite enough when trying to determine how ‘bad’ your hearing really is.

To conclude the appropriate treatment approach, your audiologist will also seek to determine what part of your hearing is damaged and what caused the impairment. 

The most common causes of hearing loss include ageing, genetics and damage to the ear due to noise exposure and/or trauma. 

The Types of Hearing Loss

What type of hearing loss you’re diagnosed with depends on what part of your ear has sustained damage. 

Hearing loss falls into three categories: Sensorineural, conductive and mixed.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Conductive Hearing Loss

  • A type of hearing loss that occurs when there is damage to the cochlea or auditory nerve. 
  • It is usually permanent and may be treated with hearing aids.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss may be caused by the effects of ageing and excessive noise exposure.
  • It can be present at birth or the result of trauma and exposure to ototoxic agents.
  • It occurs when there is a blockage or damage to the outer and/or middle ear. 
  • The degree of hearing loss may fluctuate depending on the underlying cause. 
  • Common causes include
    • An excess of ear wax,
    • Eustachian tube dysfunction,
    • A middle ear infection and the common cold,
    • Perforation of the eardrum,
    • Any type of damage to the ossicular chain.

And there’s a third ‘type’ of hearing loss we haven’t mentioned yet: If you suffer from both sensorineural and conductive loss in the same ear, it is referred to as a ‘mixed hearing loss’.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions 

  • Is Hearing Loss Reversible?

While some types of hearing loss are temporary, just take conductive hearing loss caused by a common cold as an example; not all hearing impairments can be reversed. 

Age-related hearing loss, for one, cannot be ‘fixed’. But, hearing aids can provide much-needed relief and may be used to improve your overall hearing. 

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Conductive Hearing Loss

  • There is no medical treatment for sensorineural hearing loss. 
  • But, in most cases, sensorineural hearing loss can be managed with hearing aids or cochlear implantation.
  • Conductive loss may be treated using medical and/or surgical means. 
  • Otherwise, conductive hearing loss may be managed with hearing aids, implantable devices or assistive listening devices.
  • What Level of Hearing Loss Requires a Hearing Aid?

The answer to this question largely depends on your audiologist’s professional opinion. Most hearing care professionals suggest a hearing aid to anyone with moderate hearing loss or worse. 

  • What Level of Hearing Loss is Considered a Disability?

In Australia, you would be considered disabled if you:

  • Have a hearing threshold of greater than 90 decibels in your better ear.
  • Or have a permanent hearing impairment of greater than 65 decibels in the better ear, 
  • Or have a hearing impairment of fewer than 65 decibels and have another disability.
  • Or if you score 40 per cent or less on a word recognition test, which implies severe problems with speaking and listening. 

In either of these cases, you may meet the disability requirements in Section 24 of the NDIS ACT

Are you keen to begin your journey to better hearing health with Attune Hearing

Don’t hesitate to take the first step and contact your local hearing healthcare professionals by contacting a local Attune clinic and booking a free 15-min hearing test today!

Enquire now