Hearing Loss Levels - My Little Ears

When diagnosing hearing loss, your audiologist will indicate what level of deafness your child has. Below are some definitions of hearing range in dB to be expected with each category as well as some broader things to expect according to the hearing loss levels your child has.

Normal hearing Overview

For many people, when they think of the term ‘deaf’, they imagine an absolute inability to hear any sound but this is very rarely the case. There are varying degrees of hearing loss both in terms of intensity (volume) and frequency (pitch) of sounds.

When your child is diagnosed with hearing loss, it’s really important to understand the different levels of deafness and what they can mean for your child’s development and perceptions of the world. Hearing loss can differ greatly between each ear and be unilateral (affecting only one ear) or bilateral (affecting both ears).

One of the most complex aspects of understanding a child or adult’s hearing loss is the fact that hearing loss does not occur at a consistent level regardless of pitch. Hearing loss can be defined as low frequency or high frequency and hearing loss in the higher frequencies are most common. If your child is fitted with hearing aids or cochlear implants, your audiologist will adjust the device to take frequency of hearing loss as well as intensity of hearing loss into account.

mild hearing lossMild Hearing Loss

Mild hearing loss is classified as a hearing level with a range between 21-40 decibels (dB). Mild hearing loss can be very hard to spot and diagnose at a young age but oto-acoustic emissions (OAE) screening at birth is helping audiology professions to catch hearing loss early.

Some factors of mild hearing loss:

  • Sounds will typically be muffled in nature – imagine wearing earplugs.
  • Typically, difficulties in hearing will mostly be experienced in busy situations with a lot of background noise. One to one conversations in quiet environments should not be an issue, especially with hearing aids.
  • With mild hearing loss, a child will hear conversation but may not hear, or otherwise misinterpret fragments of words, sounds or letters, leading to potential misunderstanding.
  • With hearing aids, hearing should be much improved but will not be restored to a normal level.

moderate hearing lossModerate Hearing Loss

Moderate hearing loss is classified as a range of hearing between 41-70 decibels (dB). Moderate hearing loss can potentially cause significant speech delay if not diagnosed early, and possibly poor speech production and a monotone, flat voice quality.

Some factors of moderate hearing loss:

  • Understanding and hearing speech will be highly difficult in busy situations with background noise, even with hearing aids.
  • Hearing aids will much improve hearing levels but they will still remain below the classified normal levels.

severe hearing lossSevere Hearing Loss

Severe hearing loss is classified as a hearing range between 71-90 decibels (dB). Severe hearing loss will likely have a great impact on the hearing and understanding of speech even when aided. Depending on whether hair cell death has occurred in outer and inner cells, causing a total loss of high frequency sound perception, cochlear implants may be chosen over BTE (behind the ear) hearing aids. Lack of ability to distinguish between frequency (pitch) of sound is likely to cause as flat voice quality.

Some factors of severe hearing loss:

  • Loud speech in a quiet situation should be audible but amplification will likely still be needed.
  • Struggles with distinguishing high frequency sounds may lead to flat voice quality.
  • Hearing aids or cochlear implants will improve hearing levels but as with any hearing loss, normal levels will not be restored.

profound hearing lossProfound Hearing Loss

Profound hearing loss is classified as a hearing range below 91dB. With both inner and outer hair cell death, the ability to distinguish between frequencies or pitches, is no longer there and there will most likely be a flat voice quality. There may be struggles with hearing aids, as they may make sounds easier to hear, but not to understand.

Some factors of profound hearing loss:  

  • Even with amplification using a hearing aid or cochlear implant, very will be heard.
  • There will almost definitely be a reliance on lip reading and/or sign for communication.