There are several different types of hearing loss and different degrees of hearing loss that need specialized forms of treatment.
If you or someone you know is considered deaf, you must first understand what that means and how hearing has been damaged.
Whether or not a person who is deaf can hear with a hearing aid depends on the degree of their actual hearing loss.
We’ll discuss how hearing works, the degrees of hearing loss, and how hearing aids help restore sound.
We’ll also cover other hearing treatments that may be a better solution for people with higher degrees of hearing disabilities.
People with hearing loss need to find effective solutions to treat it. Hearing loss that goes untreated can lead to isolation and feelings of depression.
The structure of the ear is divided into three parts, the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear.
Hearing loss is classified by the part of the ear that is damaged.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
The inner ear comprises the fluid-filled cochlea, semicircular canals, and the vestibular and auditory nerves.
The most common forms of hearing loss involve damage to these parts.
Sensorineural hearing loss refers to this type of damage. It usually involves damage or destruction of the tiny hairs inside the cochlea.
These hair cells do not regenerate, so when they are damaged, a portion of our hearing is damaged, too.
Age-related hearing loss, called presbycusis, is a form of sensorineural hearing loss.
Conductive Hearing Loss
The outer part of the ear consists of the visible part known as the pinna and the ear canal.
The middle ear consists of the eardrum and the three tiny bones of the ear known as the malleus, incus, and stapes.
Damage to these parts is called conductive hearing loss. It usually results from trauma, a blockage in the ear canal, a buildup of earwax, or a genetic malformation.
Mixed Hearing Loss
If your hearing loss involves damage to the inner and outer or middle ear, you are said to have mixed hearing loss.
You’ll need an audiologist to confirm whether your hearing loss is sensorineural, conductive, or mixed.
An audiologist can administer a hearing test to help you understand the type of hearing loss you have and the degree of hearing loss you are experiencing.
Degrees of Hearing Loss
What is the difference between deafness, being hard of hearing, and hearing impaired?
They all refer to differing hearing loss levels, but sometimes they are used interchangeably.
Hearing is measured by how loud a sound must be (in decibels) for you to hear it.
The more hearing you have lost, the louder or higher the decibel must be for your ears to hear the sound.
As such, a scale is often used to measure the degree of hearing loss a person is experiencing.
A person with normal hearing can hear sounds between -10 decibels and 15 decibels.
Once a person loses the ability to hear sounds at 15 decibels, they are experiencing hearing loss. This scale includes varying degrees of hearing loss:
- Slight. 16-25 decibels
- Mild. 26-40 decibels
- Moderate. 41-55 decibels
- Moderately Severe. 56-70 decibels
- Severe. 71-90 decibels
- Profound. 91+ decibels
People who have been diagnosed with severe hearing loss or profound hearing loss have lost nearly or all use of their hearing.
Once you are diagnosed with hearing loss, your healthcare provider may give you a referral to a hearing specialist.
A hearing specialist helps you determine the best type of sound amplification you need to restore the lost portion of your hearing.
Remember that even the most advanced assistive technology cannot restore normal hearing.
Still, technology can amplify sound and help reduce background noise, making it easier for you to hear conversations in noisy environments.
There are many different types of hearing aids, including ones that have an earmold that sits inside the opening of the ear canal called “in the ear” or “ITE,” and ones that sit “behind the ear” or “BTE.”
Hearing aids amplify sound and deliver it to the cochlea via a microphone.
A hearing aid may help restore your ability to hear sound and communicate more effectively with those around you if you have a mild to moderately severe hearing impairment.
A deaf person may or may not be able to hear with a hearing aid.
Because deafness can include people with severe and profound hearing loss when a person has lost virtually all use of their hearing ability, a special type of hearing aid may help them regain their hearing ability.
These types of hearing aids are often called “super” or “power” hearing aids. Most hearing aid manufacturers now offer these types of hearing aid models.
Some hearing aids also allow people to connect digitally to their favorite smart devices with Bluetooth technology.
This can help them lead an easier life without using additional devices to amplify the sounds they need to hear.
For people who are born deaf or who cannot obtain adequate hearing improvement through the use of hearing aids, cochlear implants may be an option to help restore their hearing.
Cochlear implants are surgically placed devices that bypass the damaged part of the ears.
These devices collect sound and change it to electrical signals, which are then delivered directly to the auditory nerve.
The auditory nerve then carries the electrical signals to the brain to be interpreted into sound.
While cochlear implants cannot restore normal hearing, they can make it possible for someone who cannot hear with other devices to hear.
They may improve a deaf person’s ability to speak and enunciate words clearly.
Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)
Other devices that may help someone with a hearing impairment are called assistive listening devices.
Frequently used in large auditoriums with a single speaker, these devices are usually worn over the ear, like headphones, and help amplify sound for the wearer.
Other ALDs may include TTY (teletypewriter) systems that translate speech into text in real-time.
Sign Language and Lip Reading
If you have a profound hearing loss, using sign language and lip reading can be incredible tools to help you communicate more effectively.
These methods do not require any degree of hearing and can be done without any devices or digital tools.
Hearing Care That Works
Experiencing a hearing loss can change your quality of life, and seeking a solution will help you maintain your ability to do the things you enjoy.
Talk to your doctor if you’re unsure what treatment solution is best for you.
For more information about hearing loss treatments, hearing loss, and how to protect your remaining hearing, head over to the USA Rx blog.
Here, you can learn more about other common health concerns and ways to care for your body and mind.
References, Studies and Sources:
Degree of Hearing Loss|ASHA.org
Hearing Aids — Styles/Types & How They Work | National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.NIH.gov
Cochlear implant: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia|MedlinePlus.gov
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