Hearing loss is a growing concern. 

According to the National Center for Health Statistics  48 million Americans (20 percent) have some degree of hearing loss. It is the third most prevalent chronic health condition in older adults, after arthritis and heart disease, making it an issue of national concern.

  • 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 has hearing loss

  • 1 in 14 generation X'ers (age 29-40) already has hearing loss

  • 1 in 6 baby boomers (ages 41-59) has hearing loss


One of the First steps in understanding the treatment options available for your hearing loss is to understand more about how hearing works and the degrees of hearing loss. This knowledge will help you to feel more comfortable and confident that you are making the right choice for you, your child or loved one.


How hearing works. Hearing is the process of sound traveling through the outer, middle and inner ear. Natural hearing is dependent on all of these parts working together, and a problem with any of them can cause a hearing loss.

Parts of the Ear

Outer Ear: consists of the outer part that you can see (the pinna) and the ear canal.



Middle Ear: consists of the eardrum, the three tiny connected bones (ossicles), which are often referred to as the hammer, anvil, and stirrup.



Inner Ear: contains the snail-shaped cochlea and the hearing nerve, as well as semicircular canals that help with balance.



Each part of the ear plays a critical role in transmitting sound to the brain. Although sound enters through the ear, it is interpreted by the brain, so essentially you hear with both your ears and your brain. If any part of the outer, middle or inner ear isn’t working properly, your hearing may be affected. To gain a better understanding of hearing loss, read about the various types of hearing loss.


If any part of the outer, middle or inner ear isn’t working correctly, some type of hearing loss may be present.


Sensorineural hearing loss typically occurs as you get older or are exposed to loud noise, but some people are born with this type of loss. Most people say they are able to hear, but don’t always understand what people are saying. It’s often confused with nerve deafness when it’s really due to problems with the inner ear.


Occurs when the sound is no passing through the outer or middle ear to reach the inner ear. Conductive hearing loss happens when sound cannot pass thru the outer and middle ear. You may find it challenging to hear soft sounds. Conductive hearing loss by definition is something blocking sound from entering the ear canal like earwax, an ear infection, something foreign in the ear or a perforated eardrum.


Is a combination of a conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. This means that there may be damage in both the outer or middle ear and in the inner ear. This type of hearing loss can range from mild to completely profound hearing loss. A good example of how mixed hearing loss can occur would be if you work around loud noises and you have fluid in your middle ear. An audiologists can help you if you have mixed hearing loss.


Mild Hearing Loss


You may hear speech, but soft sounds are hard to hear such as a whisper or the consonants on the end of words like “Shoes” or “Fish”. Mild hearing loss can be a symptom of sensorineural and/or conductive hearing loss and can impact one or both ears.

Moderate Hearing Loss

You may hear speech from another person speaking at a normal level but will have difficulty understanding what is said. You might hear the vowels within a sentence but not the consonants. This makes sentence comprehension almost impossible.

Severe Hearing Loss

you may hear little to no speech of a person talking at a normal level and only some loud sounds. You may respond only to a very loud sound, such as a car horn, but it might no be startling or scary in the same way it might be to a person with normal hearing.

Profound Hearing Loss

You will not hear any speech and only the very loud sounds. You will likely feel the vibrations of only the loudest of sounds.


Understanding the Audiogram


During a hearing test, the audiologists will record information about your hearing on an audiogram. An audiogram is a visual illustration that shows the softest sounds you hear, or hearing thresholds. Pitch also known as, frequency is measured in hertz (Hz) and the loudness is measured in decibels (dB).


Your audiologist will plot your hearing loss test using “X” for the left ear in blue, and “O” for the right ear in red.

A person with normal hearing can detect very soft sounds at or below 20 dB, Such as a whisper, to a very loud sound at or above 120 dB, such as an airplane. A thorough hearing test is easy and painless, and will get you started on the path to better hearing.

The “Speech Banana” represents where vowels and consonants fall on the audiogram. Access to these sounds is required to hear and understand speech.


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