Man wearing hearing protectors to protect his ears in the workplace to prevent possibly having to see a hearing aid specialist due to a hearing loss.

Degrees of Hearing Loss

A hearing status can range from normal hearing to profound hearing loss. The degree of hearing loss is determined by a hearing test.

Hearing loss has many descriptions, such as various types, configurations, and degrees. The focus and information shared will be about the various degrees of hearing loss. Your hearing status can range from normal hearing to a profound hearing loss. The degree of your hearing loss can be determined by a hearing test that indicates the softest level of sound you can hear over a range of pitches (frequencies). These soft sound levels are measured in decibels hearing level (dB HL). Decibels are represented from 0 dB HL (very soft sounds) to 110 dB HL (very loud sounds). 

Hearing loss is grouped into seven categories: normal, slight, mild, moderate, moderately-severe, severe, and profound. 

Degree of hearing loss Hearing loss range (dB HL)
Normal 0 to 15
Slight 16 to 25
Mild 26 to 40
Moderate 41 to 55
Moderately-severe 56 to 70
Severe 71 to 90
Profound 91 +

Slight hearing loss

Slight hearing loss ranges from 16 to 25 dB HL. If you have slight hearing loss you may only experience a few difficulties, such as missing out on soft sounds like whispering or leaves rustling. This degree of hearing loss is more significant for young children as they might miss out on specific sounds that are critical for speech and language development. 

Mild hearing loss

Mild hearing loss may present with more hearing difficulties and ranges between 25-40 dB HL. You may struggle to hear faint or distant speech as well as following a conversation in noisy environments. You may also have to ask people to repeat themselves, especially if there is background noise. However, you may follow a one-on-one conversation in a quiet environment. 

Moderate hearing loss

Moderate hearing loss ranges from 41-55 dB HL and can result in difficulty following a one-on-one conversation in a quiet as well as a noisy environment. A common complaint with moderate hearing loss is that people will say they can hear the person talking, but cannot always understand what is being said. 

Moderately-severe loss

Moderately-severe hearing loss ranges from 56-70 dB HL and falls within the normal conversational speech range (± 60dB HL). Therefore, if you have a moderate-severe hearing loss, you may have difficulties hearing speech at a conversational level. Without the help of appropriate intervention and amplification, this conversational level of speech may remain inaudible.  You may have to ask people to repeat themselves in a louder tone to hear them. You may also have significant difficulty conversing in groups. 

Severe hearing loss

Severe hearing loss ranges from 71-90 dB HL. If you have a severe hearing loss, not only will you struggle to hear soft and conversational speech, you will also have difficulty hearing louder speech.  Normal conversational speech is inaudible without the help of amplification. You also benefit from added visual input such as lip-reading. 

Profound hearing loss

Profound hearing loss is the highest degree of hearing loss and ranges from 91 dB HL upwards. At this point, you will only be able to hear speakers if they significantly raise their voices. Profound hearing loss comes with concerns about safety as, you might not be able to hear warning signals such as a fire alarm, doorbell, or house alarm. You will rely mainly on added visual input, e.g. lip reading and/or sign language, in addition to powerful amplification. 

Any degree of hearing loss can have an impact on the overall quality of life for adults, but especially on the development of speech and language in children.  It is therefore extremely important that if you think you or your child may have hearing loss, contact a health care professional for help. Keep in mind, each degree of hearing loss could have a different treatment. 

Blog author and hearing expert, Lisa Brown

Written byLisa Brown

Masters in Audiology

Want to Stay Informed

Sign up to our newsletter.