Hearing Loss Overview

What does hearing loss sound like? The answer depends on quite a few factors. Challenges to your hearing can come up suddenly or happen gradually over time. Hearing loss can come up at any age in life and affect one or both ears.
Because hearing loss can take different forms, it’s important to notice and respond to changes in your hearing. Treating hearing loss early makes it easier to adapt to hearing aids and helps prevent additional health and hearing issues. Here are a few important things to understand about hearing loss.

Common Signs of Hearing Loss

Any change in your hearing is important to notice and can be an indicator of hearing problems. Common signs include:

  • Needing speech repeated or amplified
  • Hearing a person speaking but the speech sounds muffled
  • Increasing the volume on audio controls to high and maximum levels
  • Difficulty following conversations
  • Avoiding noisy social situations like restaurants and parties
  • Difficulty at following activity at your school or workplace
  • Having anxiety, stress or frustration around your hearing

    Common Causes of Hearing Loss

    Hearing loss can stem from many different causes and multiple factors can contribute to the presence of hearing problems. Permanent hearing loss does have one very common and largely preventable cause: exposure to loud noise. Noise exposure that can damage your hearing is called “hazardous noise” and it can happen when sound is louder than 85 decibels.

    Other things can be behind hearing loss. Compacted earwax or other obstructions in the ear can limit what we hear. Certain medications can cause hearing damage as a side effect of use. Injuries to the head can result in hearing damage as can infections in the inner or outer ear. As we age, our auditory system becomes more delicate and we become more susceptible to hearing issues.

    Types of Hearing Loss

    There are two major types of hearing loss based on where in the ear your hearing problems are based. It is also possible to have both types of hearing loss present, which is called Mixed Hearing Loss.

    How Hearing Loss Is Configured


    The degree of hearing loss uses the thresholds of your hearing to determine how compromised your hearing is. A hearing threshold is the volume level at which you can detect a sound 50% of the time.
    The volume level beyond the normal hearing threshold determines the degree of hearing loss present.

    • Mild Hearing Loss requires 26-40 dB of amplification over normal levels to detect a sound
    • Moderate Hearing Loss means that 41-55 dB of amplification is needed to hear properly
    • Moderately Severe Hearing Loss connotes that a sound cannot be heard without 56-70 dB of amplification
    • Severe Hearing Loss means that hearing a sound requires 70-90 dB of amplification over normal levels
    • Profound Hearing Loss is present when 90 dB of amplification or more is required to hear a sound

    A hearing test assesses the hearing ability of each of your ears independent from each other. This determines whether the presence and level of hearing loss is roughly the same for each ear or different. When hearing loss is present in the same manner in both ears, it is known as “Symmetrical Hearing Loss”. Hearing loss that displays itself differently in each ear is “Asymmetrical Hearing Loss”.

    Hearing loss can be present in both of your ears or it can be an issue for just one ear. Another factor in the configuration of your hearing loss is based on this distribution. “Bilateral Hearing Loss” means that significant hearing loss exists in both ears. “Unilateral Hearing Loss” indicates hearing loss in just one ear, and normal hearing in the other.

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