“If I had a hearing impairment, I would know it.” This is a common quote heard by many Audiologists and is not necessarily a true statement. Hearing loss often develops over an extended period of time and the onset is gradual. Our brains naturally adapt over time which is why a hearing loss can sometimes ‘sneak-up’ on people. Audiologists often counsel patients that they cannot know what they are missing if they do not hear it. There may be sounds in your world that are occurring, but you don’t notice them due to your loss; therefore, you don’t know what you are missing. Straining to listen can make it more difficult to communicate with family and friends. It can become physically and emotionally tiring to hear conversation, especially in noisy situations.
-10dB to 25dB Normal to slight hearing loss:
Hearing is within normal limits. Amplification is not necessary.
26dB to 40dB Mild hearing loss:
Will begin to have difficulty understanding faint speech, may have some difficulty in noisy situations. Able to function without amplification, but could be useful to those who are frequently in social or noisy situations.
41dB to 55dB Moderate hearing loss:
Some difficulty in group conversations, noisy backgrounds, faint speech and normal conversational speech. Occasional irritability and withdrawal from certain situations. Slight feeling of confusion in communication situations. Amplification is most likely beneficial.
56dB to 70dB Moderately-Severe hearing loss:
Will frequently ask for statements to be repeated. Will definitely have difficulty in group situations, formal discussions and lectures. Will try to lip read. Will benefit from amplification in everyday situations.
71dB to 90dB Severe Hearing Loss:
Hears only with amplification. Pronounced difficulties in all communicative situations. Will misunderstand many conversations. Their own speech will likely show defects and they will rely on speech reading. Will benefit from amplification in everyday situations.
91dB+ Profound Hearing Loss:
May still have difficulty understanding amplified speech. May not be able to use residual hearing for communication. Amplification may allow hearing of danger signals and important environmental noises, but may still have some difficulty understanding speech.
Noticeable Gestures and Questions when Someone is having Difficulty Hearing
Someone experiencing difficulty hearing or understanding speech will frequently ask you to repeat. They will frequently ask questions like, “what?, I’m sorry?, pardon?, huh?, come again?, aye?, etc….” Noticeable gestures may include cupping their ear toward sounds, leaning into sounds or leaning forward. You may also notice them watching your lip movements and paying special attention to your own gestures to try to comprehend what you are saying.
Unfortunately, it is not often that a person will seek help from an Audiologist or Hearing Professional on their own without prompting from their loved ones or friends. Reasons for this are because of old mis-perceived stigmas associated with the admission of a hearing difficulty. Many think it only happens if you are old and that everyone will see the hearing aid.
The truth is that trouble hearing can arise from many sources including something as simple as seasonal allergies, childhood illnesses or repeated exposure to loud noises. Hearing aids
today are very small about the size of a small paper clip or even smaller. Some ITE (In The Ear) hearing aids can be custom made and implanted directly into the ear canal. If you know someone who would benefit from hearing amplification, please urge them to seek help. At the very least, urge them to use hearing protection to protect what is left of their ability to hear at all. Most hearing aid companies are able to make custom ear plugs.
*Source: Clark, J.G. (1981). Uses and abuses of hearing loss classification. Asha, 23, 493-500.
Written By: Jenae Schabel & Jennifer Drake, April 2012