Not All Degrees Of Hearing Loss Are The Same

Missing a word or two during the course of a conversation is very different from not being able to hear words that are spoken when the speaker is turned away. There are varying degrees of hearing loss that correspond with a range in decibels (dB HL). Despite your degree of hearing loss, it is important to understand the cause and what kind of hearing aid will help you the most. Each model of hearing aid, coupled with the technology included, can serve each degree of hearing loss differently. Some models are better for certain levels. If you are unsure which type of hearing aid can help you, check with your doctor or audiologist.

The varying levels of hearing loss are categorized as such:

Level Of Hearing Loss ———— Range In Decibels (dB HL)

Profound —————————– +91

Severe —————————– 71-90

Moderately Severe ——————- 56-70

Moderate —————————– 41-55

Mild ——————————— 26-40

Slight —————————– 16-25

Normal —————————– 10-15

Profound hearing loss means a person cannot hear most sounds, and they likely communicate through sign language or by reading lips. A mild loss of hearing occurs when it is difficult to hear a person while in a noisy environment or someone who is far away. If you cannot understand what a person is saying when they turn away from you, you probably have a moderate or moderately severe hearing impairment. People with moderate loss of hearing may be able to understand vowels but not consonants. Conductive hearing loss, where there is damage to the outer or middle ear, results in difficulty hearing low-frequency sounds (vowels). Sensorineural hearing loss, which occurs when the inner ear is damaged, results in high-frequency hearing loss (consonants).

When you choose a hearing aid, you want to make sure that it will serve a few purposes. First, it must be comfortable or you’ll find that you simply won’t wear it. Next, it should accommodate both the decibel degree of impaired hearing and the frequency level. Otherwise, you still won’t be able to hear. Most hearing aids, even ones available over-the-counter, include features that increase the ability to hear. Of course, these features are up to each manufacturer and company’s research and development team. The most common features are:

A directional microphone, which amplifies noise coming from the direction the wearer is facing. This can be especially helpful in crowded, noisy environments.

Feedback cancellation. No one likes that high-pitched sound that hearing aids emit, and if you are unable to hear the noise, it can be embarrassing if you don’t know it’s happening. Most hearing aid devices have some sort of feedback cancellation technology to reduce or eliminate feedback. Completely-in-the-canal devices tend to have less feedback than behind-the-ear models.

Zoom. An audio zoom control allows the wearer to manually adjust the direction from which sound will be amplified.

Finding the perfect fit can take several models and fittings until you find a device that works for you and your degree of hearing loss. Find a place that has a grace period in which you can return the device if you are unsatisfied.

Loren Taylor writes for Hearing Aids Elite [], which is an online retailer of personal sound amplifiers and digital hearing aids [].

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