Mild hearing loss can seem like a conundrum if you find yourself experiencing it. The world of hearing loss treatments like specialist appointments, tests, and hearing aids is so expensive, vast, and daunting - how do you know you’re making the right decision for your level of hearing loss?
Well, the good news is that you are not alone, and just like millions before you, there are answers to your question.
“Even for people with mild hearing loss, for example in the high frequency ranges, Audien hearing aids can provide that added boost to improve your ability to hear in critical settings such as work meetings.” - Drew Sutton, MD, Board-Certified Otolaryngologist.
There are multiple types of hearing aids that all have their unique benefits. So taking a closer look at what hearing aid is and what kinds of models you will find on the market can help ease your mind when making this decision. Lastly, there are prescription hearing aids and over-the-counter hearing aids - but what does that mean, and how can these differences help you?
Hearing Loss Has Several Origins, and No One Is Immune
Millions of people in the United States deal with hearing loss, and hearing loss is actually one of the most prevalent disabilities affecting the population. It can affect literally any age group, socio-economic status, or career field.
We use our ears every day, leaving them open to many origins of hearing loss. For instance, loud sounds without proper ear protection can cause hearing loss over time, or even just normal aging has been shown to cause degrees of hearing loss. Genetic factors can also affect hearing loss, which can manifest either at birth or later in life. Autoimmune diseases and even traumatic events can impair your hearing.
Types of Hearing Loss
Not only are we all susceptible to hearing loss from a variety of origins, but there are also different types of hearing loss. When someone experiences a depreciation in their hearing ability, they are experiencing one of three major kinds of hearing loss: Conductive, Sensorineural, or Mixed.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss deals with the ear as a whole organ. There are three compartments to the ear, and each works in tandem with the other to receive sound waves and then translate those sound waves into electrical impulses decoded and interpreted by the brain to be the sound that we hear.
When we have conductive hearing loss, it is indicative of any blockage that may happen at any point in this system. This could be as simple as ear wax build-up, lightly blocking the conduction of soundwaves through the ear, causing a very minimal amount of hearing loss. It could be something more serious like an autoimmune disease that results in inflammation that blocks off or compromises certain parts of the inner ear.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss deals directly with the inner ear and the neurological function of the ear. This kind of hearing loss can range from mild to severe and can be treated by hearing aids or cochlear implants.
People born with genetic factors that affect hearing loss typically have a form of sensorineural hearing loss. This kind of hearing loss generally does indicate a more severe form of disability.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss is as simple as it sounds - a mixture of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. This is not an uncommon form of hearing loss and can be treated similarly to the above forms.
Degrees of Hearing Loss
Now that you know the types of hearing loss let's discuss the degrees to which you can experience this disability. Hearing loss itself is the process of a person’s decibel threshold being unnaturally raised to the point that normal sounds are not recognizable anymore. What does this mean? Well, to understand this, you have to first know what a decibel threshold is.
When we hear, our ears are receiving sound waves at unique and signature frequencies. These soundwaves have a certain level of natural force - or power that they present with.
For instance, think of a small bird chirping in a tree overhead - its high pitch makes it easy to hear and recognize even though it's several feet above you. However, when a Harley Davidson crosses the street an equal amount of length from you, the throaty roar of the engine can drown out the chirping bird’s song. This is because these unique sounds have different decibel or power levels.
A person with normal hearing has a decibel threshold of around zero, meaning that they can hear almost all sounds. However, when they lose their hearing, that threshold goes up, and sounds that occur at a decibel level below that threshold become unrecognizable.
Four Degrees of Hearing Loss
When a person experiences hearing loss, they can be placed in four general degrees with corresponding decibel thresholds.
Here are the degrees of hearing loss:
- Mild hearing loss: threshold of 20-40 decibels
- Moderate hearing loss: threshold of 41-60 decibels
- Severe hearing loss: threshold of 61-80 decibels
- Profound hearing loss: threshold of 21-90 decibels
Mild Hearing Loss
If you are reading this, one of the big questions you may have is - what can be done for mild hearing loss. It is, after all, the most minimal degree of hearing loss, so does it warrant treatment that is honestly very expensive?
Well, it’s our opinion that it does - however you don’t have to break the bank in order to treat mild hearing loss. Mild hearing loss is indictable of a hearing threshold between twenty and forty decibels. This is significant in that this represents a normal hearing range that can recognize everything from a whisper to a normal conversation.
While someone with mild hearing loss can still operate without hearing aids, they will require others to speak up outside of their normal decibel level to be understood.
Engaging in a conversation is normally more of a struggle with mild hearing loss, and some factors can make even this basic activity very hard, like sound pollution. Sound pollution is probably one of the most detrimental factors for someone with mild hearing loss.
Sound pollution itself is simply the background noises that can clutter up and cloud a normal soundscape - such as the sound traffic, equipment, or crowds of people. If you have normal hearing, it's much easier to focus on your friend talking to you in a crowded room - however, with mild hearing loss, your raised decibel threshold makes this a challenge.
Why Choose Hearing Aids
For these exact reasons, acquiring hearing aids is a good choice for a person with mild hearing loss. Hearing aids themselves are incredible medical devices that take sound waves and boost them to a new decibel level.
For someone with mild hearing loss, their raised decibel threshold poses very real challenges for their day-to-day lives, and hearing aids will help them overcome that challenge. Hearing aids are also built for multiple degrees and types of hearing loss.
There are two very general styles of hearing aids, even though there are multiple types and models to choose from. Those general styles are known as behind the ear models and in-ear models. The most significant difference between these two styles and their different models and types is size.
The behind the ear types are larger and house more processing and battery power. These are typically used for more severe forms of hearing loss, like moderately to severe. The in-ear styles are the smallest, and while they are still very powerful devices, they have less room for processing power. These devices are perfect for lighter forms of hearing loss, like mild hearing loss.
Over the Counter Vs. Prescription
When it comes to getting hearing aids, over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids can greatly improve mild hearing loss. Our brand of hearing aids focuses on providing one of the smallest in-ear hearing aids on the market with cutting-edge technology that helps you filter out background noise and focus on the sounds you want to hear. Not only that but our hearing aids are affordably priced at less than one hundred dollars.
The main difference between OTC hearing aids prescription is that OTC hearing aids do not come with custom programming to your specific diagnosis. However, the process of acquiring those diagnoses is part of the massive cost of prescription hearing aids.
While we may not give you a custom programmed hearing aid, our one size fits all brand has a satisfaction guarantee that it will help significantly improve your hearing loss and be a valuable tool. For more information about Audien’s hearing aid options, click here to learn more.
Construction Noise Pollution | nationalgeographic.org
Hearing loss and deafness: Normal hearing and impaired hearing - InformedHealth.org - NCBI Bookshelf