What causes hearing loss?

It is common for people with hearing difficulties to turn away from friends and family and become isolated. Loss of hearing means that you are no longer able to carry conversations and interact with your loved ones the same way you did in the past. This can be extremely frustrating.

The most common causes are:
  • Aging
  • Prolonged exposure to loud noises
  • Diseases such as meningitis
  • Hereditary factors
  • Certain medications

Degrees of hearing loss

The term, degrees of hearing loss, refers to the various levels of the damage. Your hearing loss may be completely different in severity than someone else’s

Audiologists measure the intensity of a sound and the degree of hearing loss in decibels (dB HL). What that means is, if you have a hearing loss of 40 dB HL, you are unable to hear sounds softer than 40 dB HL.

Your hearing is considered normal if it can detect sounds softer than 15 dB HL. If you can hear only above that range, you are deemed to have hearing loss.
Infographic - Degrees of hearing loss
Mild Hearing Loss
If you have mild hearing loss, you may have trouble hearing sounds under 40 decibels. You can't detect soft-spoken words, the noise of the refrigerator motor, or the ticking of the clock. If your hearing loss falls into this type, you do not yet have difficulty with loud or more intense vowel sounds. You will, however, likely miss some of the softer consonant sounds. If you catch yourself asking people occasionally to speak up because you cannot hear them, you should get a hearing test done by a hearing specialist. The best way to get an idea of what this stage sounds like is if you place your fingers in your ears and try to listen to someone speak.
Moderate Hearing Loss
Moderate hearing loss is one step higher on the severity scale.  At this stage, you will not only miss the soft consonant sounds, but you will find yourself struggling to make out the vowel sounds as well. With a moderate loss in hearing ability, you will notice that even though you can hear without your hearing aid, you often can’t understand. Typically, at this stage, most people have pushed past the denial stage and recognize that they have a severe hearing problem.
Moderate-to-severe Hearing Loss
At this stage, whenever you don’t have your hearing aids in place, you will struggle to hear spoken words. You might be extremely frustrated, that even when you do have your hearing device, you can’t always understand what is being said. Turning up the sound doesn’t make it clearer either.
Severe Hearing Loss
If you have severe hearing loss, even the sound of a ringing phone could be completely inaudible. To ensure a better quality of life, a hearing aid or a cochlear implant is a must. If you haven't yet, it is essential to make an appointment with a hearing care professional to get you properly evaluated.
Profound Hearing Loss
At that stage, you can only perceive sounds that are over 90 decibels. Even a very loud noise, like an airplane engine, may not be heard. Profound hearing loss is a very serious situation, and those who face this situation, they often resort to lipreading to try and stay connected. The hearing aid at this point will offer only partial improvements, helping you to hear the sounds of your surroundings and even have some oral communication.
If you or someone you know is showing signs of hearing impairment, be sure to see a hearing specialist and get a hearing test done. Only a trained hearing professional can make an assessment, interpret your hearing test results and recommend the best treatment.