According to experts, approximately 48 million Americans are experiencing some form of hearing loss. Even more alarming the World Health Organization estimate that more than 1 billion teenagers are at increased risk of hearing loss due to unhealthy, prolonged use of earbuds and headphones.
Since the Hearing Loss Association of America reports that a child experiencing mild hearing loss can miss as much as 50 percent of classroom discussion, it helps to understand the different levels of hearing loss to stop it before it gets worse, or to find solutions to prevent hearing loss.
It’s quite common for us to experience different degrees of hearing loss as we age. Interestingly, when cell phones became popular among youths, many began using ringtones of a higher frequency than adults could hear so they could secretly answer messages in the classrooms without detection from adults.
Although our hearing abilities naturally decline as we age, it’s helpful to understand the different types of hearing loss so you can figure out if you are experiencing any of them. This helps recognize problems before they become more severe and find the best treatment available to you.
The Four Categories of Hearing Loss
There are four categories of hearing loss beyond “normal.” Often, hearing loss will occur gradually, making it difficult to determine that it’s happening until it becomes too pronounced to ignore.
When you can hold a one-on-one conversation but have difficulty when there is a lot of background noise, this is an example of mild hearing loss. When you receive your hearing test, the results will generally be between 36 and 40 decibels on the scale. Some people who experience mild hearing loss can also experience tinnitus (ringing/buzzing in the ear).
Those with moderate hearing loss often accuse people of mumbling or ask them to repeat themselves frequently in conversations. They are unable to hear sounds lower than 40 to 69 decibels such as a conversation from three feet away or leaves rustling.
If you are unable to hear sounds lower than 70 to 94 decibels such as major road traffic or someone shouting at close range, you may be experiencing severe hearing loss. Those with this level of hearing loss often rely on reading lips and may need to use a hearing aid.
When you have profound hearing loss, most loud sounds are experienced as vibrations. Those with profound hearing loss may not be able to have a conversation without assistance, and cannot hear any sounds below 95 decibels.
These four categories can be further broken down based on what kinds of hearing damage you are experiencing. The ear is a complex, complicated structure, and many parts of it can be the cause of your hearing loss.
The Three Types of Hearing Loss
Some hearing loss can be remedied with a simple treatment, while others might involve a more complex solution.
Conductive hearing loss is a sounds inability to conduct through the ear. Conductive hearing loss can be the result of a temporary issue such as ear wax build-up or due to ear bone problems. Conductive hearing loss is often described as the feeling of having water stuck in your ear.
There are tiny hairs within the cochlea that translate small waves into sound. Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) happens when there is damage to the inner ear or the nerves connecting the ears to the brain.
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Someone who works around a lot of loud noises and also has a fluid blockage in their ear may experience mixed hearing loss.
It can be challenging to navigate the intricacies of everyday life when you or someone you love are experiencing hearing loss. Not only can it interfere with interpersonal relationships, but also with work and extracurricular activities; resulting in isolation and depression. That’s why it is crucial to be familiar with the first signs of hearing loss so you can choose the best treatment options available.
Some hearing loss is temporary – perhaps due to infection, excessive ear wax, or a cold – while others can be permanent. The only way to know for sure is to get an evaluation. A qualified audiologist can perform a physical examination of your ears as well as testing to determine what – if any – hearing loss you are experiencing.
There are many options available today to help you get back to your old self – from cochlear implants to hearing aids. The best way to determine what will be most effective is to have an examination and discuss your options with an audiologist. We invite you to contact us today to schedule an appointment and assess your options.