About the Mild Hearing Loss

Hearing loss that occurs gradually as you age (presbycusis) is common. Almost half the people in the United States older than age 65 have some degree of hearing loss.
Hearing loss is defined as one of four types:
  • Conductive Hearing Loss
Hearing loss caused by something that stops sounds from getting through the outer or middle ear. This type of hearing loss can often be treated with medicine or surgery.
  • Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Hearing loss that occurs when there is a problem in the way the inner ear or hearing nerve works.
  • Mixed Hearing Loss
Hearing loss that includes both a conductive and a sensorineural hearing loss.
  • Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder
Hearing loss that occurs when sound enters the ear normally, but because of damage to the inner ear or the hearing nerve, sound isn’t organized in a way that the brain can understand
Aging and chronic exposure to loud noises both contribute to hearing loss. Other factors, such as excessive earwax, can temporarily reduce how well your ears conduct sounds.
You can't reverse most types of hearing loss. However, you and your doctor or a hearing specialist can take steps to improve what you hear.
The degree of hearing loss can range from mild to profound:
  • Mild Hearing Loss
A person with a mild hearing loss may hear some speech sounds but soft sounds are hard to hear.
  • Moderate Hearing Loss
A person with a moderate hearing loss may hear almost no speech when another person is talking at a normal level.
  • Severe Hearing Loss
A person with severe hearing loss will hear no speech when a person is talking at a normal level and only some loud sounds.
  • Profound Hearing Loss
A person with a profound hearing loss will not hear any speech and only very loud sounds.
Hearing loss is divided into degrees of severity from mild to profound. If you have mild hearing loss, your hearing loss isn't severe and you can likely "fake it until you make it" in many social situations.
However, despite how it sounds, "mild" hearing loss doesn't mean harmless—it can still have profound effects on your quality of life and ability to communicate with loved ones and coworkers. And because it's mild, these effects may be more insidious than obvious.
Mild hearing loss is defined by being unable to hear sounds that are quieter than about 25 decibels (dB) for adults and 15 dB for children. This includes sounds like whispered conversations, dripping water, leaves rustling, feet shuffling on floors/carpets, and birds chirping. You may struggle with hearing both low-pitched and high-pitched sounds (known as frequency) in that sound range, though most people stop hearing high-frequency pitches first.
Degrees of hearing loss include normal, mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe and profound. These ranges are identified on an audiogram, one of the tests you’ll undergo as part of a hearing evaluation. An adult’s normal hearing range is between 0-25 dB across the frequency range. Normal hearing for children is between 0-15 dB.
How does mild hearing loss affect communication?
People with mild hearing loss often say they hear well in quiet environments when talking one-on-one with someone; however, not so well when they are in noisy environments, nor when a person is facing away or is standing some distance away from them, according to audiologist Dr. Melissa Danchak, AuD, of Kos/Danchak Audiology and Hearing Aids in Arlington, Texas.
People with mild hearing loss often report that they can hear but can't understand conversations clearly.
Can you prevent mild hearing loss?
The most preventable type of hearing loss is noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), a condition which affects millions of Americans, hearing loss statistics show. Many types of hearing protective devices are available to help you keep your hearing safe from NIHL:
Foam earplugs, available at most drug stores, are ideal for basic noise prevention
In-ear monitors, custom-made devices for musicians to protect hearing and control the amount of sound they hear for each instrument and person in the band.
Filtered earplugs, great for music lovers who want to enjoy a concert without affecting the fidelity of sound
Percussive filters, custom molded for hunters to block out the loud sound of the gun blast yet still allow normal conversation to filter through. More on shooting sports and hearing loss.
“The only other preventative measure one can take is to seek medical treatment right away whenever they notice a change of hearing,” Dr. Danchak said. “Whether it is treatment for an ear infection or something more serious like a viral infection or autoimmune attack on the inner ear, it is important not to delay making an appointment to see a physician. Earlier treatment yields better outcomes.”
Hearing aids for mild hearing loss
People with mild hearing loss are often candidates for hearing aids. Hearing aid technology has come a long way, and today's devices are sleek, stylish and customizable to any degree of hearing loss. And the Earsmate Hearing aids exist for every lifestyle and budget.
There is good news for hearing aid wearers with mild hearing loss. First, you will have more choices of hearing aid brand,types and styles available to you compared with someone whose hearing loss has progressed to the point of being severe to profound. You may be able to wear smaller hearing aids, too.
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