The discussion in this article is going to be attempting to answer the question about what level of hearing loss requires a hearing aid (and types of hearing loss). In order to understand our topic a little better let's look at some stats that will, hopefully, open our eyes to the problem of hearing loss.
Now, this is not something to worry about if you think you might have hearing loss. There is help to be found. Speaking as someone who has hearing loss there is an upside. You always have an excuse to not hear someone. This comes in handy if you just need some time to get lost in your own head. You should try it sometime. It's fun.
Some Quick Stats About Hearing Loss
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, more than 90 percent of deaf children are born to parents who can hear. Not surprisingly, the majority of age-related hearing loss is reported by people in the 60 to 69-year-old age group.
Now, this certainly does not mean that they are the only ones dealing with hearing loss. According to the NIDCD, of all Americans over the age of 18, about 15 percent of them report dealing with some level of hearing loss.
Another strong indicator of those who will have some sort of hearing loss are people who work around loud noises. Of this group, About 18 percent of adults between the ages of 18-69, who have been exposed to loud noises at work for more than 5 years, report hearing loss in both ears. This is called occupational noise exposure.
All of the above stats come from the following website: NIDCD
These are just a few of the many stats that could be quoted here. So, we can clearly see that hearing loss is definitely a serious problem that many people deal with in the United States.
What Are Some of the Warning Signs That You Need to Be Aware of That Might Give You a Clue That You Might Have Developing Hearing Loss?
One of the first things you might notice is that you are straining to hear people when you are in an environment with a lot of background noise, such as a restaurant. As a person with mild hearing loss, this is one of the first things I noticed.
Another thing I realized I was doing after it was pointed out to me, is that I was doing a lot of half-listening to people and half reading lips. What I mean is, I was listening to them talk but because I could not hear them very well.
So, I read their lips at the same time to help fill in the blanks, so to speak. Sometimes this is the only way I can keep up with the conversation. Of course, asking people to repeat themselves is part and parcel of what we are talking about here. You might find yourself doing that a lot. That is a big clue.
Another thing to note is if your family complains that you have the television volume up too high. You may not realize how loud it is but your family is getting blasted out of the living room.
Another item that is interesting is not being able to hear people who have a very high or very low pitched voice. This is an odd one but it's very true. You may find that you have a difficult time hearing those types of voices. It may be trouble with high pitched voices for one person and then low pitched voices for another. But, this may be something for you to watch out for.
This next one kind of goes with what I was talking about earlier in the article about reading lips. But, you may find that you simply follow social cues as you sit with your friends or family and follow along with them that way. You may not even hear what is being said. But, you can somewhat figure it out by watching body language and, again by reading lips.
But, the question at hand is, what level of hearing loss requires a hearing aid?
Let's Talk About Levels of Hearing Loss
There are many levels of hearing loss that range from normal hearing levels all the way up to a profound hearing loss. Below are hearing loss ranges that are considered common:
**Source: Clark, J. G. (1981). Uses and abuses of hearing loss classification. Asha, 23, 493–500.
I got the above table from: ASHA
As you can see, you can have a wide range of hearing loss. But, at what level do you begin to need hearing assistance?
Let's Break These Hearing Levels Down Into a Simpler Format
Let's make them 4 distinct categories:
Mild hearing loss can be understood as having a difficult time hearing low-level noises. This would be noises like whispering, low hums or buzzes, low television volume settings and etc. It may also make it difficult to hear when you are in a noisy environment such as a restaurant or store with a lot of background noise.
You may be relegated to reading lips in such an environment if you don't have some type of hearing aid. This problem, in a noisy environment, can be compounded if someone is speaking softly to you. You may need to ask them to speak a little louder.
You may be experiencing moderate hearing loss if you find that you have difficulty hearing in normal, everyday situations. Such situations like being at work (assuming you don't work in a noisy environment), or just talking with your spouse at home for instance. If you're experiencing this, you may be having an especially difficult time communicating in today's world.
This is because everyone is wearing masks. When you have moderate hearing loss, seeing someone's lips becomes very important in being able to understand them and communicate with them effectively. If they have their mouth covered, as most people do these days, it can seriously hamper speaking to others.
Severe hearing loss is where things start to get very difficult to hear even when there is not a lot of background noise. This is because this level of hearing loss is because makes it difficult to hear anything. Very simple things like hearing the television, or someone calling from the other room will be all but impossible to hear. Now, this is where most experts will say you might need a hearing aid.
Profound hearing loss is when things have to be extremely loud for you to hear it. This might be the roar of a passing jumbo jet or a loud sports car. Or even something like fireworks on the fourth of July for instance. This is a stage where your life is being impacted by your hearing loss in a way that makes it much more difficult to live.
So, looking at the above list, you might think that a hearing aid is necessary when you get to the severe level of hearing loss. There are, no doubt, many opinions on the timing of this type of thing. But, opinions are like noses, everybody has one!!
It is my opinion is that this is a personal decision. Is it wiser to go to the doctor sooner or wait until your hearing loss starts to profoundly inhibit your daily life?
Well, as with most things, it will only get worse the longer it goes untreated. Considering this you may decide it's far better to get it checked very soon after you notice any hearing loss. Some people may decide to wait a little longer. The big take away here is this: what is hearing loss for you?
Hearing loss will probably greatly vary from person to person at any chosen age. What I mean by this is that Hearing loss will be different for person A at 50 years old then it will be for person B at 50 years old. Person A may have much more profound hearing loss at 50 years old than person B.
This could be related to many different reasons. One of the big reasons on this list is certainly work and environmental conditions. If you worked a job where you were around very loud noises for long periods of time, you might attribute your hearing loss to that. Sometimes, it's simply genetic. You may simply be prone to hearing loss because one of your parents had it or your grandparent before them and etc.
To sum up, when you should go get a hearing check-up, you should probably do it sooner rather than later. The sooner a doctor can check your hearing issues out, the better the prognosis might be.
Just thinking about what we've learned in this article, it would seem that most people are going to wait until they are somewhere between moderate and severe hearing loss before seeking help. But, they may have been better served by going to a hearing loss specialist when they were somewhere between mild and moderate hearing loss.
I say this because I think most people won't even realize they have a hearing loss problem until they are already at the Mild level. Then they probably have to take some time to realize what is even happening. Once they realize that, then they can have a better idea of what their next step needs to be.
All of this takes time. Some people may even be in denial and, because of that, take a long time, to be honest with themselves and take action. All of this takes time to develop. By the time this has all happened, they are already at the Moderate level of hearing loss.
If you have questions about hearing loss, especially if you fear you may have it, you should research it online. Look up warning signs of hearing loss and see if you are displaying any of them. If you are, don't let the internet scare you into a panic.
Understand that you and I are not doctors (unless you are actually a doctor) and that, even if we seem to be showing some of the signs of hearing loss that we read about on the internet, we still need an actual doctor to diagnose us before we get concerned.
A website is not a good replacement for an actual doctor asking you questions, running tests, and then forming an opinion about what is happening to you.
So, know what hearing loss is. Know the warning signs. Know the level at which you think you may be. Then, do not self-diagnose based on something you read on the internet. If you have concerns, go see an actual doctor.