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Minnesota Adult Basic Education Disability Specialists

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Hearing Loss Diagram

What is the type of hearing loss? What degree of hearing loss is it? The type and degree of hearing loss determines the method of treatment for the hearing loss.

There are three types of hearing loss:

  1. Conductive hearing loss means that sound is unable to travel through the eardrum and middle ear (bones).  Conductive hearing loss is usually caused by wax in the ears or ear infections and is generally treatable..
  2. Sensorineural hearing loss involves the inner ear or the nerve cells. People are able to use hearing aids or cochlear implants in most cases.
  3. Mixed hearing loss is when there is conductive and sensorineural loss at the same time.  Damage may be in the outer or middle ear and in the inner ear or nerve pathway to the brain.

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.

There are basically four degrees (countries outside of the United States may not use the same terms). Please refer to audiogram below.

  1. Mild: At 26-45 decibels (dB), a little difficulty hearing speech. Even a mild hearing loss can be serious for children still learning to talk
  2. Moderate:  At 46-65 dB, more difficulty hearing speech.
  3. Severe:  At 66-85 dB, a lot of difficulty hearing speech. It is at this level that we begin to use the term "deaf."
  4. Profound:  Anything over 85 dB. With this level of hearing loss, hearing aids may or may not help; cochlear implants are often an option.

Audiogram: Loudness of sound is measured in decibels (dB). Most experts recommend that you use earplugs when exposed to 85 dB and above. But what does 85 dB mean? The following chart shows common sounds and their associated sound levels.

20 dB Ticking watch 85 dB Average traffic
30 dB Quiet whisper 95 dB MRI
40 dB Refrigerator hum 100 dB 105 dB Blow dryer, subway train
50 dB Rainfall 110 dB Power mower, chainsaw
60 dB Sewing machine 120 dB Screaming child
70 dB Washing machine 130 dB Rock concert, thunderclap
80 dB Alarm clock (two feet away) Jackhammer, jet engine plane (100 feet away)
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