Hearing loss varies substantially from person to person. Some people only experience minor hearing loss, such as the inability to hear somebody whispering, whereas, for others, hearing loss can be far more substantial.

Audiologists and other health professionals have different categorize hearing loss according to the severity of the loss. These categories have strict, well-defined definitions in clinical settings with various features and thresholds. Let’s take a look at the five common degrees of hearing loss.

Mild hearing loss

Experts define mild hearing loss as people who struggle to hear sounds between 26 and 40 decibels. People who speak softly tend to talk in the 26-40 decibel range so those with mild hearing loss may struggle to hear these types of people in conversation. Children playing and talking with one another also typically operate in the 26-40 range, and can be hard to understand for people with mild hearing loss.

Moderate hearing loss

Audiologists define moderate hearing loss for situations in which people find it hard to hear sounds in the 41-55 decibel range. This is the range in which most people speak, often making it hard for those with moderate hearing loss to hear what’s being said in regular conversations, both at home and in the workplace.

People with moderate hearing loss can often struggle to hear consonant sounds too. This can lead to confusion during conversation and requests to repeat what’s been said already.

Moderately-severe hearing loss

When a person finds it hard to hear a baby crying or a dog barking, then they are defined as having moderately-severe hearing loss. Moderately-severe hearing loss occurs when individuals cannot hear sounds in the 56-70 decibel range. Those in this category struggle to hear any regular speech and need to wear hearing aids. However, even with hearing aids, it may still be challenging to determine what’s being said. Amplification may not make sounds any clearer to the wearer.

Severe hearing loss

Audiologists define severe hearing loss as that which occurs between 71 and 90 decibels. At this level of hearing loss, speech is not audible without hearing aids, and even people shouting may be challenging to discern.

Those with severe hearing loss require the use of hearing aids and cochlear implants to be able to take part in regular conversations. Those with severe hearing loss may not be able to hear loud music piped through headphones.

Profound hearing loss

Those with profound hearing loss are defined as those who cannot hear any noises below 91 decibels. For context, 91 decibels is about the noise level emitted by a lawnmower.

Profound hearing loss often means that sufferers can only hear the very loudest noises, such as an airplane taking off, or a fire alarm. In extreme cases, even these sounds may not be loud enough for the person to detect.

The good news is that the vast majority of people with varying degrees of hearing loss can experience improvements in their hearing by wearing hearing aids. Assistive hearing devices enhance sounds and make speech clearer.