Degrees of Hearing Loss
Follow this link for recorded simulations of different degrees of hearing
Mild hearing loss
The softest sounds a child hears are at levels of 25 dB to 40 dB. Without amplification, the child can hear most conversations up close and in quiet environments, but is likely to miss parts of words. A child with mild hearing loss will have trouble hearing faint or distant speech, and may have trouble hearing in a noisy environment. A child with mild hearing loss will benefit from amplification and should be able to hear all sounds with hearing aids.
Moderate hearing loss
The softest sounds a child hears are at levels of 40 dB to 65 dB. Speech can only be understood if it is loud. A child may have limitations in vocabulary, language comprehension and language usage. Without amplification, the child will have difficulty hearing spoken conversation such that 50 to 100% of spoken conversations may be missed. With amplification and intervention, a child with moderate hearing loss should be able to hear and recognize all sounds.
Severe hearing loss
The softest sounds a child hears are at levels of 70 dB to 90 dB. A child with a severe hearing loss will not hear voices, unless speech is very loud. Without amplification, the individual will not recognize any speech through listening alone. With amplification, a child with severe hearing loss should have good ability to hear speech, but may still have some difficulty distinguishing all sounds.
Profound hearing loss
The softest sounds a child hears are at levels of 90 dB or more. Historically, a child with a profound hearing loss would be called deaf, but a more appropriate term is “a child with a profound hearing loss”. Very loud sounds will not be detected. A child will rely on vision rather than hearing for primary communication. Many children with profound hearing loss with hearing aids can detect moderately loud sounds and spoken conversation under ideal listening conditions. Many children still need visual communication to assist them in understanding spoken conversation.
Unilateral hearing loss
Because one ear still has normal hearing, a child with unilateral hearing loss will hear well in most situations. However, children with a hearing loss in one ear may have difficulty understanding speech in a noisy background, especially if the good ear is close to the noise. Individuals with unilateral hearing loss usually have difficulty knowing where sounds are coming from (localizing). Although some children with unilateral hearing loss receive benefit from the use of a hearing aid, a standard hearing aid may not be helpful when the hearing loss is more severe. However, recent studies suggest that 25-35% of children with unilateral hearing loss are at risk for failing a grade in school. Therefore, a child with unilateral hearing loss will often benefit from an amplification device, an FM system, in the classroom.
Center on Human Development and Disability,
UW LEND, University of Washington,
Box 357920, Seattle, WA 98195-7920 firstname.lastname@example.org