Grandparents with mild hearing loss playing with their granddaughter

Hearing Aids for Mild Hearing Loss

July 14, 2020

Your hearing test results may indicate a mild hearing loss. But what does that mean? And do you even need hearing aids for mild hearing loss?

When you or your loved ones notice that you aren’t hearing as well you should take a hearing test. The results may show a mild hearing loss. If you haven’t yet noticed any changes to your hearing abilities, this can come as a surprise to you. You may wonder what mild hearing loss is, what to do about it, and if there are hearing aids for mild hearing loss?

What is a mild hearing loss?

If you have mild hearing loss, you may find it difficult to hear softer sounds. This includes whispering and especially speech sounds such as ‘th’, ‘p’, ‘k’, ‘f’, ‘h’, and ‘s’. You won’t experience difficulty hearing when in a quiet room or speaking one-on-one. If there is any background noise or if the speaker is far away, you may have difficulty making out what is being said. Thus, you will most likely mishear words or misunderstand the topic of conversation. This often leads to confusion, embarrassment, and/or frustration.

The term ‘mild hearing loss’ is purely a label based on your hearing results. It does not describe how you experience the loss. In some ways, mild hearing loss can be harder to accept than more severe hearing loss. You may even feel there is nothing wrong with your hearing. You may have noticed a problem in certain environments and assumed it must be due to poor acoustics in the room. Or maybe you thought the speaker was mumbling or soft-spoken. Mild hearing loss can also leave family members frustrated as they have to repeat themselves.

The essentials

Your ear is divided into three sections. The outer, middle, and the inner ear. Mild hearing loss can occur in any of these sections. Outer or middle ear-related hearing loss (such as a wax blockage or ear infection) is treatable. Inner ear hearing loss (sensorineural hearing loss) is generally permanent and can worsen. Unfortunately, this is also the most common type of hearing loss in adults. Causes include loud sounds, age-related deterioration, certain medications, or inner ear diseases. 

The primary intervention for sensorineural hearing loss is hearing aids. Hearing check results are used to configure hearing aids This helps amplify sounds that you haven’t heard in a long time. Hearing aids amplify important sounds and can reduce background noise. This makes important sounds clearer.

4 Reasons to wear hearing aids for mild hearing loss

  1. Hearing aids will help with fatigue
    With any hearing loss, your brain spends more energy focusing on understanding speech. As a result, you tend to feel tired faster and are less inclined to keep on listening. A hearing aid can make the pathway that sound travels to your brain, much more effortless. This way, you don’t have to spend your energy wondering if your friend is talking about the weather or a feather.
  2. Hearing aids help your brain process sounds
    If your ear can’t pick up certain sounds, the nerve that stimulates sound to the brain will not be stimulated. The longer this hearing nerve and brain are deprived of those signals, the less the brain can process them. When people with hearing loss wait a few years before wearing hearing aids, the brain can lose some of its ability to identify different sounds. So, whilst hearing aids may make sounds louder, these sounds will not be very clear. If hearing aids are fitted as soon as a hearing loss is detected, minimal time is lost. So the brain’s processing and discrimination abilities will remain intact.
  3. Hearing aids help prevent dementia
    In recent years, the connection between hearing loss and dementia has become evident. Individuals with hearing loss are at greater risk of developing dementia later on in life2. This is because people who have difficulty hearing, often avoid social outings. Many don’t want to struggle to take part in conversations. When you withdraw, you reduce mental stimulation. This can also lead to loneliness and depression, which contribute to the progression of dementia.
  4. Hearing aids help you stay connected to social groups
    People with hearing loss who wear hearing aids, feel less mentally exhausted by social interactions. They can participate in their communities more, and derive greater enjoyment from life. All this whilst still promoting their brain health.

Whether a hearing loss is mild or severe, it is still a loss. One that can lead to frustration and overall lower quality of life. Luckily, it is also a loss that can be easily addressed. In some ways, being diagnosed with mild hearing loss is good news. It means that you have caught your hearing loss early and can keep that connection between your ears and your brain strong. This allows you to get back to living life and connecting with loved ones. Hearing aids for mild hearing loss is a happy solution!

Image of post writer Melissa Thompson.

Written by Melissa Thompson

MSc Advanced Audiology; BA Speech and Hearing Therapy

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