Understanding the 5 Stages of Hearing Loss

About 15% of American adults report difficulty hearing — that’s about 37.5 million people. Hearing loss can affect anyone at any age, but your risk increases as you get older. In fact, most people over age 65 have some degree of hearing loss.

Age-related hearing loss often comes on slowly, and it ranges in severity. Some people experience mild hearing loss, but nearly 29 million Americans could benefit from hearing aids.

Improving your hearing quality starts with understanding your condition. If you’ve noticed that it’s getting harder to hear, it’s time to learn more about the stages of hearing loss.

Alexa S. Lessow, MD, and our team at Lexington ENT & Allergy specialize in diagnosing the underlying causes of your hearing loss and developing a personalized treatment plan that preserves ear health and helps you hear more clearly.

Mild hearing loss

Mild hearing loss is generally diagnosed when the quietest sounds you can hear fall between 25 and 34 decibels (dB). Mild hearing loss can make it difficult to hear soft consonant sounds in speech, but you’re likely still able to hear sharp or loud vowel sounds.

You might find you have difficulty following conversations from time to time, particularly in crowds or when there’s a lot of background noise. Young children may be difficult to hear, and you might miss sounds like dripping water or a ticking clock in a quiet room.

Moderate hearing loss

If the quietest sounds you can hear are between 35 and 49 dB, you may have moderate hearing loss. Hearing loss at this point is significant enough that you could benefit from wearing hearing aids.

Moderate hearing loss can make it difficult to hear in many different situations and affect your ability to participate in conversation. You may not be able to hear soft speech at all and may miss louder sounds in the home, such as a vacuum cleaner.

Moderately severe hearing loss

Moderately severe hearing loss is diagnosed when the quietest sounds you can hear are between 50 and 64 dB. In this stage of hearing loss, you’ll likely have problems hearing most sounds without hearing aids.

It may be very difficult to participate in conversational speech with this degree of hearing loss. You may not hear loud sounds, such as a dog barking nearby.

Severe hearing loss

Severe hearing loss is generally diagnosed when the quietest sounds you can detect fall between 65 and 79 dB. At this point, you’re considered very hard of hearing and you generally need powerful hearing aids in daily life.

With severe hearing loss, you cannot hear conversational speech at all and you may have trouble hearing loud speech. Loud sounds, such as a crying baby, may go unnoticed.

Profound hearing loss

If the quietest sound you can hear is 80 dB or more, you have profound hearing loss. Profound hearing loss may require powerful hearing aids or implants to improve your ability to hear.

With both severe and profound hearing loss, you might find yourself relying on lip-reading, sign language, or a combination to communicate effectively with others.

Your hearing is unique to you. It’s possible to have one ear that’s better than another, or have hearing loss that falls between two stages, for example, mild-to-moderate hearing loss. When you work with our team at Lexington ENT & Allergy, we strive to understand your hearing loss patterns and create a treatment plan that fits your needs.

Don’t settle for missing out on the sounds of life. Schedule a hearing assessment at our convenient Upper East Side, New York, office. Call 212-861-1961 or request an appointment online.

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