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Degrees of Hearing Loss Explained

By March 2, 2022No Comments

Degrees of hearing loss refers to the severity of hearing loss one experiences. Determining an individuals degree of hearing loss has to do with how loud sounds need to be for them to hear it. The louder the sound needs to be, the more severe one’s hearing loss is. Degrees of hearing range from the following : slight, mild, moderate, severe, and profound.

Sound is measured in units called decibels (dB). The higher the decibel level, the louder the noise. The decibel scale ranges 0 dB (complete silence) to 140 dB (threshold for pain). It’s very important to note that listening to sounds over 85 dB for a prolonged period of time can severely damage one’s hearing. 

Understanding decibels is important when determine the degree of someone’s hearing loss. For example, if someone is having a difficult time with hearing lower decibel sounds like a whisper, then they most likely experiencing slight to mild hearing loss. On the other hand, if an individual is struggling to hear sounds like a lawn mower (90 dB) then they are suffering with severe hearing loss. To put decibels into perspective, consider the following : 

  • 10 dB : Breathing
  • 20 dB: Rustling leaves
  • 30 dB : Whisper
  • 40 dB: Refrigerator
  • 50 dB: Moderate Rainfall
  • 60 dB: Conversation
  • 70 dB: Car
  • 80 dB: Truck
  • 90 dB : Hair Dryer
  • 100 dB : Helicopter
  • 110 dB: Trombone
  • 120 dB: Police Siren
  • 130 dB: Jet engine
  • 140 dB: Fireworks


Degrees of Hearing loss :


Slight hearing loss is when you can’t hear sounds quieter than 15 to 20 dB. Individuals with slight hearing loss can’t hear sounds such as whispers or leaves rustling. 


Those who have mild hearing loss may not even be aware that they have a problem. To put this into perspective in decibels, it is defined as having hearing loss between 26 and 40 dB. Talking with others one on one isn’t typically an issue. However, once background noises are added to the mix, things tend to get trickier and it may be harder to understand the conversation taking place.

Examples of sounds that one with mild hearing loss can’t hear include whispering, water dripping, leaves rustling, birds chirping, and humming of a refrigerator.


With moderate hearing loss, things begin to pick up and become more serious. At this level, understanding in person conversations  and telephone calls doesn’t come naturally. Those with moderate hearing loss may frequently be asking “what?” or, “can you please repeat that?” According to the decibel scale, people with moderate hearing loss cannot hear sounds lower than 40-69 dB. 


People who fall in the severe hearing loss category can’t hear without a hearing aid or other amplification devices. These individuals also may tend to rely on lip reading to make out what was said in a conversation. In terms of decibels, those with severe hearing loss can’t hear sounds lower than 70-94 dB. 


People with profound hearing loss cannot hear sounds lower than 95 dB. These individuals also rely on hearing aids or cochlear implants to hear. A cochlear implant requires surgical implantation and works differently than hearing aids. Rather than amplifying sounds, cochlear implants provides the sense of sound by stimulating the auditory nerve directly. Many people with profound hearing loss also use sign language to communicate.

It’s very important that you don’t ignore any issues you may be experiencing with your hearing. Our experienced audiologists can provide comprehensive hearing testing and help you get the treatment you need. Call us today at (716) 674-4188 or make an appointment online. Contact Us [Link]

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