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Hearing Loss Defined: Understanding Your Diagnosis


If you've been diagnosed with hearing loss, it is important to understand what the results of your hearing test are actually telling you. If you've been told you have a hearing loss of 50 dBs, what exactly does that mean? To discover the answer, let's review some basic terms your hearing professional will use to discuss your degree or level of loss.

When you have a hearing test, the results are plotted on an audiogram. The softest sound you are able to hear, at least 50% of the time, is called your threshold. Normal thresholds for adults are 0-25 dB. If you have a loss of hearing, your degree of loss is categorized by your threshold:

Mild: Thresholds for various pitches are between 25-40 dB HL (decibels hearing level). Hearing difficulty will occur for soft speech and listening in background noise. Hearing in quiet is generally manageable.

Moderate: Thresholds are between 41-55 dB HL. At this degree of loss, difficulty hearing conversations will occur, especially while in background noise. The television and radio may also need to be turned higher.

Moderately-severe: Thresholds are between 56-70 dB HL. Clarity of speech is significantly reduced and the most difficulty will occur in groups.

Severe: Thresholds are between 71-90 dB HL. Normal conversation is not audible. Loud speech is also difficult to hear or understand. At this degree of loss, the person can hear only if speech is shouted or amplified for them.

Profound: Thresholds are 91 dB HL and higher. At this level even amplified speech is difficult to understand.

So, to answer the original question, "What does a 50 dB loss mean?" It means you have moderate hearing loss, have difficulty hearing conversations especially in background noise and you are a good candidate for hearing aids.

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