Hearing loss affects a large portion of the population and occurs not only due to ageing - in many cases it can be noise induced. It is important to know which situations put hearing in danger and thus should be avoided and to note that hearing impairment may be gradual and exacerbated with time. This means that once incurred it should not be treated as a final condition but measures should be taken to preserve residual hearing.
What are the levels of hearing loss?
Hearing loss, besides defined by type (sensorineural, conductive or mixed), can be classified by severity as well. The degree of hearing loss is measured in decibels and is grouped in four basic ranges.
Mild hearing loss
Many hard of hearing have the mildest level of hearing loss and it quite often occurs with the progression of the age. People with mild hearing loss experience difficulties with sounds ranging from 26dB to 40dB. The usual manifestation of this hearing impairment level is when the speaker is away from the listener or the conversation is held in a noisy environment. In such cases, the sufferer often feels like others are mumbling or cannot understand parts of sentences. The reasons for mild hearing loss can be earwax compaction or an ear infection (both of which are treatable, and normal hearing can be restored) or it may be permanent hearing nerve damage.
Moderate hearing loss
The next level of hearing loss is moderate hearing loss and it occurs when people have trouble hearing sounds between 41dB and 70dB. Background noise is the main hindrance in this condition and the use of hearing aids is recommended in order for the hard of hearing to follow conversations (about 60dB) effortlessly.
Severe hearing loss
A person with severe hearing loss will not be able to hear clearly sounds between 70dB and 90dB. Many people with this condition need to use hearing aids, often with a combination of lip reading. Without hearing aids, it will be impossible for the sufferer to hear normal conversations or participate in everyday activities such as listening to the radio or TV or hearing the phone ringing.
Profound hearing loss
This is the last level of hearing impairment, where people cannot hear sounds lower than 90dB. In some cases, hearing aids may still be beneficial as there are models that support very high levels of amplification. For profoundly deaf people there are also additional devices available such as amplified phones and doorbells. To ease the communication, though, it may be advisable for the person to learn sign language or lip reading. Another option, depending on the individual situation, is to use cochlear implants.
It is very important to undergo regular hearing tests and monitor your hearing in much the same way one might with vision, as it is likely to change with time. Your audiologist can recommend the best treatment according to the severity of the condition. Using the proper hearing aid, assistive listening device or medication is essential for the correct handling of the situation and decreasing the impact hearing loss has on a person's life.