The amount of hearing loss is measured by it’s degree: normal, mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe, and profound. It is important to understand that most people with hearing loss of any degree report the same symptom - “I hear pretty well, I just don’t understand all the words as clear as I used to”. This is the first and most common sign of hearing loss.
The graph above, an audiogram, shows the degree of hearing loss down the right side.
Mild hearing loss starts making it difficult to understand some speech in specific situations, such as with a soft speaker or when listening in background noise. In quiet rooms a mild hearing loss causes little problem.
Moderate hearing loss creates more problems understanding conversations, particularly with women, children, and people who seem to talk fast.This is particularly noticeable in background noise such as a restaurants or social gatherings. The TV or radio may be somewhat louder for some programs in order to be heard clearly. Others may notice your hearing problem before you do. Hearing aids are very helpful when used at this level.
Moderately-severe hearing loss is obviously noticeable to others. Clarity of speech is affected whether in quiet or busy gatherings. You will mis-understand words more frequently, thinking the speaker said one word when they actually said another. The punch lines to jokes are much harder to understand. Others complain that the TV is too loud and hearing people from a distance becomes more difficult. At this level even the person with the hearing loss notices the hearing problem. In an elderly person they often do not realize that they have lost half of their hearing and begin to withdraw without even noticing. Hearing aids are incredibly helpful at this level.
Severe hearing loss requires people to speak directly to you with a louder voice. All communication must be direct and purposeful. Often you will need to watch the speaker in order to understand. Usually the hearing loss has been present for years and has finally reached this level where communication is no longer easier or enjoyable. Hearing aids are vital at this stage to remain engaged with the communication around you. If the person has never used hearing aids they must be guided carefully to achieve the best possible hearing over a period of months.
Profound Hearing loss creates pervasive hearing problems for almost all daily sounds. At this level, people with profound hearing loss may have difficulty understanding even amplified speech. Hearing aids or other amplification is vital to remain connected to the hearing world around you.