What Level of Hearing Loss Requires a Hearing Aid?
In most cases, you would benefit from a hearing aid if your hearing loss is considered moderate or severe. This usually means that you struggle to hear sounds that are measured at 55 dB. However, hearing loss is rarely even across the spectrum.
Hearing Loss and Audiograms
A hearing test measures how much hearing you currently have, and this is displayed as an audiogram. Perfect hearing usually means being able to hear from 20Hz to 20,000Hz, with human speech ranging roughly between 100Hz (deep bass) and 1,000Hz (high-pitched soprano). While speech is a bit more complicated than that with overtones and undertones contributing to how someone sounds, the fundamental frequency (the note) of someone’s voice usually falls within that range.
A linear numerical scale (1, 2, 3) on an audiogram is unhelpful because it would emphasize the highest pitches (1,000 to 20,000Hz), the majority of which fall outside standard human speech patterns. Instead, it uses something that is closer to a logarithmic scale (10, 100, 1,000, 10,000), so hearing loss can more easily be compared in a useful way. In addition, you normally have a point that’s described as 0 dB — that means the point at which perfect hearing would be expected to hear a sound. Anything below the 0 dB line indicates some hearing loss has occurred, and anything above usually means some sort of supersensitivity to noise.
Points that dip 20 dB below the 0 dB line may mean that you would benefit from a hearing aid.
How Even Is Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss is rarely even. In early-stage Ménière’s disease, for example, hearing loss tends to be unevenly skewed towards the left side — the bass notes. As the disease progresses, it starts to reduce hearing from the right-hand side of the audiogram as well and eventually the center. Hearing aids can compensate for the hearing loss caused by Ménière’s disease, provided there is still some hearing left.
In most forms of sensorineural hearing loss, however, the loss is normally skewed toward one side or the other. Similarly, those who have been exposed to loud noises on a regular basis may have a noticeable dip when that noise has damaged the hairs of their cochlear, and it usually roughly correlates to the frequency they were exposed to. In this case, a hearing aid may help, especially if the hearing loss is moderate or severe. In all cases, an audiologist can suggest the best hearing aids for you.
What About Total Hearing Loss?
When you have total hearing loss, other alternatives to hearing aids must be explored. A hearing aid relies on amplifying select frequencies and transmitting them through the ear in a more powerful way. When there isn’t any functionality in the ear, there is nothing to pick up on the sounds that a standard hearing aid produces. Alternatives may include a cochlear implant or a bone conduction hearing aid, depending on the nature of the hearing loss.