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Types of Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL)

The most common type of hearing loss. More than 90 percent of all hearing aid wearers have sensorineural hearing loss. The most common causes of sensorineural hearing loss are age related changes in hearing and noise exposure. People with sensorineural hearing loss typically report they can hear people speak, but can’t understand what they’re saying. People with sensorineural hearing loss often complain “everyone mumbles”. Also, they usually hear better in quiet environments and have difficulty understanding conversation over the telephone.

Conductive hearing loss

Occurs when sound waves are not conducted efficiently through the outer ear, tympanic membrane (eardrum), or middle ear (ossicles bones), resulting in a reduction of loudness. Conductive hearing loss may result from earwax blocking the ear canal, fluid in the middle ear, middle ear infection, obstruction in the ear canal, perforations (hole) in the eardrum or problems with the middle ear bones. Patients with a conductive hearing loss should be referred to a physician for medical treatment prior to hearing amplification.

Mixed hearing loss

Mixed hearing loss is a sensorineural hearing loss combined with a conductive hearing loss. For example, a patient may have a noise induced hearing loss and a middle ear infection.


Degrees of Hearing Loss

Determining the degree of hearing loss can be difficult, particularly with young children who do not test as well as older people who can provide more accurate results. A hearing loss can be mild, moderate, severe or profound. Sounds below the lines on the audiogram can be heard.Normal/Slight Hearing Loss


  • Normal – Anything below 15dB. All the X and O are above the 15dB line. This means hearing is ‘normal’.
  • Slight – At 16dB to 25dB, a little difficulty understanding speech.


Mild Hearing Loss



  • Mild – At 26dB to 40dB, a little difficulty hearing speech. Even a mild hearing loss can be serious for children still learning to talk.




Moderate/Moderately Severe Hearing Loss

  •  Moderate – At 41dB to 55dB, more difficulty hearing speech. Sounds below the lines on the audiogram can be heard. Low/loud sounds like oo, ah, ay and ee may be heard.
  • Moderately Severe – At 56dB to 70dB, a lot of difficulty hearing speech.


Severe Hearing Loss



  • Severe – At 71dB to 90dB, serious difficulty hearing speech without hearing aids. Conversational speech cannot be heard. Shouting and loud noise (like traffic) can be heard.




Profound Hearing Loss

  • Profound – Anything over 91dB. With this level of hearing loss, hearing aids may or may not help; cochlear implants are often an option. Speech cannot be heard. Very loud noises like pneumatic drills and planes taking off can be heard (or felt). People with very profound hearing losses can feel loud low sounds.



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