Recognising hearing loss

What is hearing loss?

Hearing loss, or hearing impairment, happens when there is a problem with one or more parts of the ear or ears, the nerves coming from the ears, or the part of the brain that controls hearing. "Impairment" means something is not working correctly or as well as it should. Hearing, just like the other four senses, plays an important role in our wellbeing. When hearing fades slowly, it can have a major impact on your day-to-day life.

Different degrees of hearing loss

Hearing loss can occur in many forms at varying degrees of severity. Your level of hearing generally falls into one of four categories; mild, moderate, severe or profound. You may have different levels of hearing loss in each ear. See the below table to learn more about the different degrees of hearing: 

Mild Hearing Loss

  • May only notice increased difficulty hearing in situations of background noise.
  • Difficulty hearing softly spoken people or children, or soft sounds in the environment such as your footsteps or your clothes rustling.  
  • Can hear loud vowel sounds but may miss soft consonant sounds.

Moderate Hearing Loss

  • Significant difficulty hearing softly spoken people, missing a range of environmental sounds such as the telephone ringing.
  • Can miss consonant sounds, and vowel sounds are more difficult to hear. As a result, speech sounds unclear or mumbled. 
  • Friends and family may be commenting on your hearing.

Severe Hearing Loss

  • Significant difficulty hearing speech at any level, and nearly all environmental sounds are inaudible.
  • May be consciously or subconsciously relying on lip-reading to help with communication.
  • Hearing aids are necessary to understand speech, but you are still likely to have difficulty in background noise.

Profound Hearing Loss

  • Unable to hear very loud sounds like airplane engines, traffic or fire alarms.
  • Even with hearing aids, speech may be difficult to understand if the speaker is not facing you and speaking clearly in a quiet environment.

The importance of a hearing check

While it’s important to get as much information as possible, a free hearing check is a quick way to determine if hearing loss is present. The free hearing check is available to everyone aged 18 years and over. We recommend that everyone over the age of 50 has an annual hearing check. It takes 20 minutes and it can be conducted at any one of our clinics.

A man and a woman at a Bay Audiology clinic

We're here to help you to better hearing

If you are worried about your hearing, or that of a loved one, book an appointment with one of our specialists today to check your hearing health. At Bay Audiology, we are here to help determine which type of hearing loss you have, how it was caused and what can be done to help.

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Suspect someone may have hearing loss?

It can be a challenge when someone close to you is experiencing hearing difficulties. It is not easy to find the right time to start a conversation about hearing loss. Reactions can be mixed, because hearing loss can be a gradual process, which people learn to accommodate and find it difficult to accept. Denial and reluctance to discuss their hearing is common. If you think a friend or family member might be experiencing hearing loss, you are doing the right thing by looking into it. Hearing problems left untreated can negatively impact people’s lives over time. 

Common hearing loss signs

  • Muffling of speech and other sounds.
  • Difficulty understanding words, especially against background noise or in a crowd.
  • Having to ask others to repeat themselves or commenting that people don’t speak clearly.
  • Needing to turn up the volume of the television or radio.
  • Withdrawal from conversations.
  • Avoidance of some social settings.
  • Feeling tired or stressed from having to concentrate while listening.
  • Friends or family commenting on their hearing.

Starting the conversation: what we can do

Starting a difficult conversation with loved ones is never easy. Bay Audiology is here to help you prepare for opening communication channels with a loved one. It’s not always easy for people to accept that they have problems with their hearing. Stress and denial are common. The most important thing is that you make sure they know you’re only having the conversation with them because you care and you want to help.
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