how hearing works

Degrees of Hearing Loss

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) approximately 15% of American adults, that is about 38 million people, report some type of trouble hearing. If you find yourself frustrated with your ability to hear, you are certainly not alone.

As an individual loses the ability to hear, less sounds will be picked up by the ear and understood by the brain. The degrees of hearing loss ranges between slight, mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe, and profound.1 Normal hearing ranges between -10 – 15 decibels (dB). The following graph displays the degrees of hearing loss by decibels of hearing lost (dB HL).


Degree Hearing loss range (dB HL)
Slight 16 – 25
Mild 26 – 40
Moderate 41 – 55
Moderately Severe 56 – 70
Severe 71 – 90
Profound 91+

Source: Clark, J. G. (1981). Uses and abuses of hearing loss classification. Asha, 23, 493–500.


test your hearing
A hearing specialist conducting a hearing test.

Checking for hearing loss can be done online here. Other apps are available as well as a test by a hearing health professional to determine the severity of hearing loss.

The below graphic displays what types of sounds are lost at each level of hearing loss. For example, an individual with a hearing loss at 30 dB will find difficulty understanding whispering, some words involving “p”, “h”, and “g”, and birds chirping. Someone with a 70 dB hearing loss will find it difficult to hear a dog barking and a baby crying while normal conversation will be very challenging without hearing assistance.

degrees of hearing loss
Source: Hearing Health Foundation, Degrees of Hearing Loss


1American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Degree of Hearing Loss


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Degrees of Hearing Loss

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Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss