Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery (Ear, Nose, and Throat)
Diagnosing Hearing Loss
Do You or Someone You Know:
- Raise the volume on the television or radio louder than others prefer?
- Have difficulty hearing in noisy places?
- Have trouble understanding people from another room or when facial cues are not available?
- Find that speech sounds muffled or complain that people mumble?
- Find that people complain that your hearing is a problem?
- Have ringing in the ears?
- Have trouble hearing over the phone?
- If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may have a hearing loss.
Most people who have an unidentified hearing loss can hear parts of speech and use their vision to fill in what their ears can't hear. This means that many people with hearing loss can hear but can't always understand. Even a person with a slight hearing loss will have trouble communicating in a noisy environment or if visual cues are not available. Hearing loss can affect either one or both ears.
How Can You Tell How Well a Person Can Hear?
There are many ways to evaluate a person's hearing, and MetroHealth audiologists are skilled at testing all populations, including those with special needs.
Two important aspects of hearing are detecting sounds and understanding speech. Audiologists determine the softest volume level of a tone that can be detected by the individual. These sounds are similar to music, and are in the same pitch range as speech sounds. Spoken words are a combination of these sounds, and if a person cannot hear all the sounds at normal hearing levels, their brains are missing pieces that the ear cannot detect. This is often interpreted as speech sounding muffled or unclear. Audiologists use a graph called an audiogram to demonstrate how well a person can detect these sounds. Audiograms help predict how hearing sensitivity affects activities of daily living.
What's an Audiogram?
An audiogram is a graph that shows the volume level at which the individual can detect various sounds. Loudness is measured in decibels (located as A on the above audiogram). The louder the sounds need to be turned up for the person to hear, the greater the degree of hearing loss. These loudness levels (decibels, written as dB) are measured at several frequencies (pitch located as B, above) and then graphed on the audiogram. The larger the decibel level means the louder the sound is measured. For example, a whisper is measured around 30dB, normal conversation is around 50dB, a jet engine at 120dB, etc. Audiologists classify hearing loss in degrees that can be described below:
Mild hearing loss (26dBHL to 45dBHL) – People with mild hearing loss may do fine in quiet areas without interference, and when facial cues are available. A person with a mild hearing loss will have trouble in noisy situations, and when a person is speaking farther than five feet away, or when the speaker is out of view. Children with a mild hearing loss may have language and learning delays, especially in the classroom where rooms are larger and noise levels are louder.
Moderate hearing loss (46dBHL to 65dBHL) – People with moderate hearing loss can hear and understand speech only in quiet situations, but the volume level of speech may sound more like a whisper. A person with a moderate hearing loss needs to use their vision to communicate, especially in noisy situations. Many young children with moderate hearing loss will appear to have behavior problems and ignore direction, especially if spoken to from out of view. Children with moderate hearing loss are likely to have speech, language, and learning delays if hearing loss is undetected.
Severe hearing loss (66dBHL to 85dBHL) – People with severe hearing loss can hear a piano, car horn, or loud telephone ringing at close distance without amplification, but cannot hear speech without the use of amplification. Many children with severe hearing loss who use amplification, especially before age three, can develop normal to near-normal speech and language. Children with severe hearing loss who do not have a method of communication will have language and learning difficulties.
Profound hearing loss (86dBHL and above ) – A person with profound hearing loss cannot hear most environmental sounds without the use of amplification, but loud sounds like, jack hammers, applause from an audience, and jet engines, may be heard or felt as vibration. A person with profound hearing loss may choose hearing aids, cochlear implants, and/or manual communication as their preference to communicate.
Schedule an Appointment
Check with your physician or insurance company to see if you need a referral for a hearing test.