To determine whether you are experiencing hearing loss, your audiologist will assess your current hearing function. This confirms which sounds you’re able to hear at a particular volume and identifies the level at which you’re no longer able to hear sounds. With this information, an audiologist can determine whether you have hearing loss and, if so, how extensive it is.

What are the degrees of hearing loss?

To understand how hearing loss is measured, it’s important to know how different degrees of hearing loss of characterized. A unit of measurement known as a decibel (dB) is used to indicate how loud a sound is. An average conversion is usually around 40-60 dB, for example, while gunfire can be as loud as 140 dB.

A person with normal hearing function and no indications of hearing loss can typically hear sounds between zero and 25 decibels, for example. If you have mild hearing loss, sounds will need to be between 25-40 decibels before you can hear them, and so on.

There are five degrees of hearing loss:

  • Mild: 25-40 dB
  • Moderate: 40-60 dB
  • Severe: 60-80 dB
  • Severe to profound: 80-90 dB
  • Profound: 90+ db

Depending on the level of sound you’re able to hear, an audiologist can determine how extensive your hearing loss is. If you’re able to hear sounds at 50 decibels, for example, you’re likely to have moderate hearing loss. However, if you cannot hear sounds until they are around 85 decibels, you may be diagnosed with severe to profound hearing loss.

Measuring sound via frequency

Frequency is another measurement of sound that is used to assess hearing function. When people experience hearing loss, they may be able to hear some sounds at a lower volume than others. This is because sounds have different frequencies. A low-frequency sound, like a deep voice, might be easier to hear than a high-frequency sound, like a whistle.

To measure your hearing loss, an audiologist will play a variety of sounds at different decibels and frequencies. You simply need to indicate when you hear something, and your responses will be monitored accordingly. An audiologist will use a chart, known as an audiogram, to plot the results and establish your hearing function. If you can hear low-frequency sounds at 10 dB and high frequency sounds at 50 dB, you may have moderate high-frequency hearing loss.

When should you have your hearing tested?

Many people only consult an audiologist when they notice symptoms of hearing loss. However, you can protect your hearing function by having regular check-ups and hearing tests, even if you aren’t experiencing any symptoms.

As hearing loss often occurs gradually, it may be some time until you notice it yourself. By having regular hearing tests, you can ensure that any signs of hearing loss are identified quickly. This can help to ensure you have access to hearing aids if you need them, and that you can take the necessary steps to protect your existing hearing function.