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Most children have some degree of measurable hearing. Only a very small percentage of children with hearing loss experience complete deafness.
The degree of hearing loss refers to how much hearing loss is present. There are five broad categories used to describe the degree of hearing loss. The numbers listed below represent the lowest frequency (or softest) sounds a person can hear.
People with slight hearing loss (20 – 25 dB) may have trouble hearing faint (quiet) speech. They may also have to listen carefully in important or difficult situations.
For people with mild hearing loss, understanding speech can be difficult. They can usually hear well if they are listening to a single person speak in a quiet situation. However, they have trouble hearing faint or distant speaking. People with mild hearing loss usually can benefit from hearing aids or FM systems.
Listening is a strain for people with moderate hearing loss. While they can understand what a person says if the person is close, it can be difficult for them to hear someone else in a noisy environment. People with moderate hearing loss may miss 50 – 75% of speech in a conversation, and often need to have part of the conversation repeated. People with moderate hearing loss usually can benefit from hearing aids or FM systems.
People with moderate – severe hearing loss can miss up to 100% of speech in a conversation, and need for a conversation to be very loud. Again, people with moderate – severe hearing loss usually can benefit from hearing aids or FM systems.
People with severe hearing loss may hear a loud voice, if the person speaking is one foot (12 inches) away from his/her ear. They may be able to identify noises in their environment (for example, a paper rustling or traffic outside), but often appear to be ignoring conversation from the people around them.
People with profound hearing loss are considered to be deaf. They may detect very loud sounds, and are usually aware of vibrations (movements) around them. People with this degree of hearing loss may rely on vision (sight), rather than hearing, as their main way of communicating with other people. People with profound hearing loss may benefit from treatments or therapies that amplify sound (make sounds louder), but may benefit more from a cochlear implant.
For more information about the treatments and therapies mentioned on this page, please click here.
People may have syndromic hearing loss (hearing loss associated with other symptoms or features of a condition) or nonsyndromic hearing loss (usually caused by a change within one of the genes related to hearing).
Hearing loss can also happen due to exposures to certain viruses, diseases, or drugs; long-term exposure to noise; complications related to birth; tumors; or aging.