Hearing healthcare professionals define mild hearing loss as being unable to hear sounds that are quieter than about 20-40 decibels (dB) for adults. Many people with mild hearing losses are unaware of their hearing loss.
As a type of hearing loss, it can still impact lifestyles on a daily basis. For many people, mild hearing losses do not have mild consequences. Mild hearing loss can mean reduced speech intelligibility in general, but especially in noise and over distances. Another consequence is increased listening fatigue with the risk of affecting social life.
People with a mild hearing loss tend to be able to hear speech when someone is speaking close to them or if the room is quiet. They can hear when people are talking loudly, too.
Talking over the phone tends to be mostly manageable too. However, they may feel that people are mumbling and/or that their ears are constantly plugged up. They also struggle when there are competing sound signals (for example speech and noise together).
Soft consonant sounds (e.g. ‘s’ ‘p’ ‘t’ or ‘sh’) are particularly difficult to hear, which is a frustration as the sound may be heard but remain unintelligible for the listener. This can drastically affect the ability to follow conversations.
What other levels of hearing loss are there?
Hearing loss is broken down into four main categories according to the degree or severity of the loss. It is measured on a scale of decibels of hearing loss against a ‘normal’ hearing person.
The number of decibels required above the normal level to hear will define the severity of the loss according to the categories below (these reflect the dB loss for the majority of frequencies):
- Mild Hearing Loss is defined as a loss of 20-39 dB
- Moderate Hearing Loss is defined as a loss of 40-69 dB
- Severe Hearing Loss is defined as a loss of 70-90 dB
- Profound Hearing Loss is defined as a loss of greater than 90 dB
How to Test for Mild Hearing Loss
To establish the degree of hearing loss a hearing test is carried out to establish how loud a sound needs to be played for the person to hear it. The test plays sounds at different frequencies – high pitch, low pitch etc. to establish the degree of hearing loss at different frequencies.
Mild Hearing Loss Causes
Depending on the type of hearing loss, there are a number of potential causes:
- Deterioration due to the natural ageing process
- Viral infection
- Head trauma
- Exposure to harmful noise
- Perforation of the ear drum
- Accumulation of wax or fluids in the ear (clogged ear)
How to Manage Mild Hearing Loss
There is currently no medical cure for many types of hearing loss. Those with mild hearing loss have a choice of continuing to suffer an ever more isolating hearing loss or investigate the use of amplification. For example, via the use of hearing aids.
Digital hearing aids can improve the quality of life for the suffer providing the gift or improved sound and clarity.
Also, other products such as TV listeners and amplified phones can provide numerous benefits for the hard of hearing.