The level of hearing loss that requires a hearing aid can vary depending on the person and their specific needs. However, in general, hearing aids are typically recommended for individuals with mild to severe hearing loss. Mild hearing loss refers to difficulty hearing soft sounds, while severe hearing loss means struggling to hear even loud sounds.
If you are experiencing any degree of hearing loss, it is best to consult with an audiologist who can assess your specific situation and determine if a hearing aid is necessary.
At South East Hearing Care Centres, we always recommend having a baseline hearing test so you always have a benchmark. One of our audiologists always jokes that ‘you can never fail a hearing test!’. In your hearing test, we will assess your level of hearing, take a look at your inner ear, take a look for any debris or wax in your ears and ask you what issues you’ve been having. We understand that coming for an appointment can be daunting, but all our audiology experts are very experienced and can walk you through every stage. Unlike NHS audiology, we have the luxury of time and high-quality tools to thoroughly diagnose any hearing issues (if any!). Please feel free to contact us for an appointment.
Our guide below will explore hearing loss, what this means and how this can be treated.
How is hearing loss defined?
Hearing loss is a partial or total inability to hear sounds in one or both ears. It is typically measured in terms of severity, ranging from mild to profound.
Hearing loss can be categorised as conductive, sensorineural, or mixed, depending on the affected part of the auditory system.
- Conductive hearing loss occurs when there is an issue with the outer or middle ear, such as a blockage or damage to the eardrum or ossicles.
- Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve and is often irreversible.
- Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
The table below shows where audiologists consider normal hearing versus hearing loss. dB HL is the sound pressure level in decibels and absolute normal is 0 DBHL across the speech range. A person is considered to have hearing loss if there is a diagnosed loss of 25 dB HL in one ear.
|Hearing category||Hearing ability|
|Dynamic range (healthy)||20Hz to 20KHz|
|Considered ‘normal hearing’||0-20 dB HL|
|Considered hearing loss||Loss of 25 dB HL in one ear (from base level)|
A healthy ear can typically hear from 20Hz to 20KHz and this is called the dynamic range.
The speech range is from 500Hz to 6KHz though, for fidelity and timbre it is beneficial to hear beyond this and useful if the dynamic range is at least 10KHz.
If an individual can hear between 0-20 dB HL (Decibel hearing level) across the speech range, then hearing is considered normal.
What causes hearing loss?
There are several factors that can contribute to hearing loss, some of which we have control over and others that we don’t.
The most common cause of hearing loss among the elderly is presbycusis, which is the natural ageing process of hearing. Unfortunately, we have no control over this aspect as we are born with a set number of hair-like cells in our cochlea, responsible for our hearing. As we age, these cells gradually die or wear out, causing our hearing range to narrow.
However, the most significant cause of hearing loss that we can control is noise exposure. The World Health Organization recommends that young people limit their exposure to loud sounds and personal audio players to only one hour a day. Listening to very loud sounds or being exposed to loud industrial noise can cause trauma to the hair cells in the cochlea, leading to permanent damage.
In addition to ageing and noise exposure, there are other factors that can contribute to hearing loss. These include genetics, infections, birth complications, trauma to the ear, ototoxic medication, chemical toxins, certain infections during pregnancy, poor diet, and central or auditory processing disorders.
The good news is that approximately half of global hearing loss could be prevented through public health interventions. This includes measures such as immunisation, proper care during pregnancy, avoiding exposure to loud noise without protection, and being cautious with certain medications.
If you suspect that you may be experiencing hearing loss, we encourage you to book an appointment today.
Our team of professionals can provide a thorough evaluation and recommend the best course of action to address your specific needs. Don’t let hearing loss hold you back from enjoying life to the fullest.
Take the first step towards better hearing by scheduling an appointment with us today.
What if your hearing loss is the result of an injury?
If your hearing is the result of an injury, you may be entitled to compensation, especially if the injury occurred at your workplace. The first process is to get your hearing tested and your ears examined.
We have all the necessary high-tech diagnostic equipment to ascertain what type and degree of hearing loss you may have and the correct solution for you.
What are the different levels of hearing loss?
1. Mild: This level of hearing loss ranges from 25 to 40 dB. Individuals with mild hearing loss may have difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments or when there is background noise. They may also miss some soft or distant sounds.
2. Moderate: Hearing loss is considered moderate if it falls within the range of 41 to 55 dB. People with moderate hearing loss may struggle to hear and understand conversations, especially in noisy situations. They may miss out on important speech sounds and frequently ask others to repeat themselves.
3. Moderate-severe: This category of hearing loss ranges from 56 to 70 dB. Individuals with moderate-severe hearing loss have significant difficulty hearing and understanding speech, even in quiet environments. They often rely on visual cues and may benefit from the use of hearing aids or assistive listening devices.
4. Severe: Hearing loss is classified as severe if it falls within the range of 71 to 90 dB. People with severe hearing loss have great difficulty understanding speech without amplification. They may only hear very loud sounds and rely heavily on lip-reading or sign language to communicate.
5. Profound: This is the most severe level of hearing loss, where the hearing threshold is greater than 90 dB. Individuals with profound hearing loss may not be able to detect or understand any speech sounds without the use of hearing aids or cochlear implants. They heavily rely on visual communication methods.
It is important to note that “normal hearing” refers to the average hearing ability of individuals with no hearing loss, which is typically considered to be within the range of 0 to 20 dB. As the degree of hearing loss increases, individuals may miss out on softer sounds, struggle to understand speech and rely more on visual cues for communication.
If you find that you have difficulties in hearing, please contact us today.
Knowing the signs of hearing loss
This is often contentious as we rarely admit that we have a hearing loss but there are signs of hearing loss which we will notice in others and if we apply them to ourselves, we may begin to realise our hearing is not what it was.
Signs of hearing issues in children:
- Lack of response to commands or your presence
- Difficulty in understanding and responding to questions, requiring repetition
- Increased volume needed to get their attention
- Incorrect or incomplete answers
- Difficulty in localising sounds, looking in the wrong direction or scanning the room
- Inability to notice sounds or certain pitches from toys
- Restlessness, poor sleep, or increased crying, indicating a possible ear infection
If you’re concerned about your child’s hearing, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with your GP today and see a specialist paediatric audiologist with the NHS. While we’d love to see children, our audiologists are unable to treat children as patients.
Signs of hearing issues in adults.
There are many common signs of hearing loss that we see in adults:
- Difficulty understanding conversation, especially in noisy environments or with multiple speakers
- Frequently asking others to repeat themselves or misunderstanding what others are saying
- Constantly needing to turn up the volume on electronic devices to hear clearly
- Social withdrawal or isolation due to difficulties in engaging in conversations
- Experiencing ringing, buzzing, or other noises in the ears (tinnitus)
- Struggling to hear high-pitched sounds like birds chirping or alarms
- Feeling fatigued or stressed after social interactions that require straining to hear
- Difficulty hearing in crowds or at parties
- Speech and other sounds may sound muffled
- Missing phone calls or doorbell rings
- Difficulty hearing soft or high-pitched sounds
- Inability to hear the ticking of a watch or clock
- Blaming poor acoustics or distractions for the inability to hear
- Missing punchlines of jokes or stories
- Relying on others to fill in missed information
- Difficulty hearing in theatres or other public places
- Easier time hearing men’s voices compared to women’s or children’s voices
- Feeling more tired after concentrating during conversations
- Decreased enjoyment of music
- Avoiding social situations with background noise
- Relying on lip reading or trying to read people’s lips
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
Does this sound familiar? Try out FREE online hearing test.
How is hearing loss diagnosed?
The very first step of the journey is to take a detailed medical history and fill out a lifestyle questionnaire. This will help us identify if there is a potential cause of the hearing loss and also understand your needs and requirements. Next, we use video-otoscopy to take images and check the health of the outer ear canal and tympanic membrane or eardrum. This will also indicate if it is safe to proceed with further tests.
We then determine how well you process sound by performing speech tests and recording your responses to a series of different word lists.
As the number one reason for booking a hearing test is trouble hearing in noise, we then perform what is probably the most important test of all, a speech-in-noise test. This is where a recorded series of sentences is played through headphones or ear inserts and you respond by repeating what you think that sentence is. The number of words correctly repeated is recorded. Each subsequent sentence has more background noise to replicate the real-life situations you find yourself in. The results of all our speech tests give a percentage score of your ability to hear.
The next test is the main reason for booking in the first place, the audiometric test. This is performed in a soundproof booth or soundproof room.
A series of pure tones are played and a button is pressed by you every time a tone is heard. This is done one ear at a time and the results are plotted as a line on a graph called an audiogram. A further test is a bone conduction test to determine if the hearing loss is sensorineural or conductive and either will determine further tests to perform.
Depending on results, it may be necessary to conduct a tympanogram which measures middle ear function and is very commonly and regularly taken in the case of conductive and mixed hearing losses. A small probe is placed into the outer ear canal and once a good seal is acquired, gentle pressure and a tone are played into the canal and the response is automatically recorded.
All of our fundamental tests may determine whether further tests or consultations are required depending on the results and treatment plans suggested.
This is all done in joint consultation so we can be assured you fully understand the process and together we get the best possible solution for your hearing and obtain an improved quality of life.
What to do if you’re experiencing hearing loss for the first time?
Simply contact us to arrange a diagnostic evaluation of your hearing. It could be that you simply have a blockage like excessive ear wax and do not require hearing aids at all.
You can self-refer and do not need to visit your GP first.
When does hearing loss require a hearing aid?
Hearing loss may require a hearing aid when it affects a person’s ability to communicate and participate in daily activities. The severity of the hearing loss and its impact on the person’s quality of life are important factors in determining if a hearing aid is necessary.
There is ample evidence to support the fact that failing to treat hearing loss can lead to a higher risk of developing dementia, as the brain gradually loses its ability to process auditory information. This is primarily attributed to the absence of regular sound stimulation that we naturally receive even when not engaged in conversation. If one truly focuses and consciously attempts to identify all the sounds present in a seemingly quiet room, it becomes apparent that silence is not as silent as it initially seems.
We would always recommend regular hearing tests and advise to correct your hearing loss at the earliest opportunity to avoid many of the cognitive issues related to prolonged untreated hearing loss.
A Plethora of Hearing Aid Options
At South East Hearing Care Centres, we are proud to offer a wide range of hearing aid options to cater to your unique needs. Our team of independent audiologists ensures that you have access to a plethora of choices, from discreet options like the Lyric to traditional behind the ear hearing aids, and everything in between. Whether you prefer rechargeable hearing aids or Bluetooth connectivity, we have the perfect solution for you.
We understand that many people desire hearing aids that are virtually invisible, and we’re pleased to be one of the few accredited Lyric centres in the UK. This accreditation allows us to fit tiny, invisible Lyric implants deep in the ear canal, providing a natural sound experience. With no need for daily insertion or removal, and no batteries to change, these devices are highly desirable, especially for those with mild to moderate hearing loss.
If you’re interested in learning more about our hearing aids, check out our comprehensive guide. Our friendly and professional team is here to assist you in finding the perfect hearing aid solution for your specific needs.
Contact our hearing care specialists
Our team is on hand to offer you expert advice and to help you with your experience of hearing loss. From a consultation to tests and choosing the right hearing aid, we can help make the process a lot easier no matter your level of hearing. Our
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