According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than five percent of the world’s population experiences disabling hearing loss. You’ve likely heard the terms “hard of hearing” and “deaf” to describe loss of hearing, but many do not know the difference. In short, the biggest difference between these terms is in degree of loss.
What Are the Degrees of Hearing Loss?
There are several different degrees of hearing loss. These are:
- Mild hearing loss: difficulty hearing subtle or soft sounds
- Moderate hearing loss: difficulty understanding speech sounds at normal volume
- Severe: difficulty hearing speech at normal volume, may be able to hear loud speech
- Profound: very loud sounds may be audible, or no sounds at all
The term “hard of hearing” describes hearing loss ranging from mild to severe. It means that while there may be difficulty hearing or understanding speech, some hearing ability is still present.
The term “deaf,” on the other hand, refers to profound hearing loss. People who are deaf can hear very little or nothing at all.
Communicating While Hard of Hearing
People who are hard of hearing have many options to help them communicate, including:
- Hearing aids: These amazing electronic devices sit in or behind the ear. They work by amplifying sounds in your environment to a level your inner ear can detect and your brain can understand.
- Assistive listening devices: You can use captioned phones, FM systems and other assistive devices alone or in conjunction with your hearing aids to improve communication.
- Cochlear implants: These surgically-implanted devices are helpful for those with severe sensorineural hearing loss who do not have success with traditional hearing aids. They work by converting sound to electrical signals that travel to the brain via the auditory nerve.
- Surgery: For some people with conductive hearing loss, surgery can repair damage or congenital deformities, allowing sound to pass through and the hearing process to occur.
Communicating While Deaf
In some cases, people with profound hearing loss can restore some level of hearing with cochlear implants. These can help with communication, but you may need to rely on other communication methods, as well.
Many people who are deaf communicate by reading lips or signing American Sign Language (ASL). It’s important to note that this is not exclusive to the deaf community – many people who are hard of hearing or even have normal hearing communicate using lip reading and ASL, as well.
For more information about the levels of hearing loss or to schedule an appointment with an audiologist, call the experts at LeMay Hearing & Balance.