Stages of Hearing Loss
The mechanics of hearing, and how hearing can be lost, can often be misunderstood. There are multiple stages and things that can cause hearing loss. Here at SightMD, we find it important to educate our patients on what they can expect during different stages of hearing loss and how it can affect other parts of the body. Hearing loss can often worsen over time, so it’s important to know what could be ahead if you have hearing loss.
Mild Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is typically characterized by the quietest sounds that a person can hear. For people who have mild hearing loss, the quietest sounds they can hear are somewhere around 25 and 40 decibels (dB). People with mild hearing loss have some difficulty keeping up with conversations, especially in noisy surroundings. Even having mild hearing loss can lead to confusion and frustration, notably when in social situations.
People with mild hearing loss may not need a hearing aid, but will usually benefit from wearing one. If you have mild hearing loss and often find yourself mentally drained after work or conversations, a hearing aid may help reduce cognitive overload. Cognitive overload can occur if someone who is hearing-impaired is focusing too much on participating in a conversation. This can also occur if you are in a large group setting and many people are talking at once.
Moderate Hearing Loss
People with moderate hearing loss, on average, can hear sounds as quiet as 40 to 70 dB. People who have moderate hearing loss will find it very difficult to keep up with conversations when not wearing a hearing aid. Higher volume is needed to hear the TV or radio. Without a hearing aid, it becomes much more difficult for someone with moderate hearing loss to hear clearly and easily.
On the more severe end of this stage, people may notice clarity of speech is considerably affected. Speech needs to be louder than usual, and group conversations may prove difficult.
Severe Hearing Loss
On average, the most quiet sounds heard by people with severe hearing loss is somewhere between 70 and 95 dB. People who live with severe hearing loss will benefit from wearing powerful, advanced hearing aids. They often rely on lip-reading even if they are wearing a hearing aid. Some people with severe hearing loss may use sign language. Having severe hearing loss may make completing everyday tasks more difficult, but with advanced hearing aids, it becomes easier.
Profound Hearing Loss
People with profound hearing loss cannot hear sounds quieter than 95 dB. People with profound hearing loss often rely heavily on lip-reading and sign language to communicate. Even amplified speech is difficult to understand, or even completely inaudible. Profound hearing loss requires more concentration when participating in conversations.
The Effects Hearing Loss Can Have on the Body
Hearing loss can affect more than just hearing and communication methods. Hearing loss can have many side effects that trickle into the daily lives of those who are experiencing it. These secondary issues include:
- Depression. Depression is extremely common in people experiencing hearing loss, and can sometimes become worse as hearing loss progresses. This can be attributed to social isolation as well as feelings of being misunderstood. Higher body mass index, living alone, smoking, drinking, and poor health are all associated with both hearing loss and depression. If you know someone who has hearing loss, it is important to be empathetic and understanding. You may not be able to understand them at first, or there may be miscommunication. It’s key that you make someone who has hearing loss feel like they are being heard.
- Dementia. There is some evidence that hearing loss can contribute to the development of dementia. Researchers have found that when more cognitive resources are used just trying to hear noises, brain power can become severely affected. It can be exhausting to spend so much effort trying to hear the world around you!
Essentially, the brain is focusing so much effort on hearing and deciphering, that it does not have any more power left to actually process the information. This has been proven to lead to dementia and other memory issues. The risk increases depending on the severity of the hearing loss. If you notice that someone is having issues with hearing loss and it is untreated, bring it up to them. You may be saving them from frustration and misunderstanding later on!
- Higher hospitalization rates. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people with at least mild hearing loss were more likely to be hospitalized more often.
- Risk of falling. People with hearing loss are more at risk for falls. A mild hearing loss is associated with nearly three times the likelihood of falling. This increases as hearing loss gets worse.
If you are living with hearing loss and would like to better understand your condition and what you can do to prevent other health issues, contact SightMD. Our expert audiologists are dedicated to serving Long Island with quality hearing loss management and coping skills. When it comes to hearing loss, SightMD’s audiologists have only your best interests in mind. Call us or contact us to schedule your appointment at one of our many Long Island locations!