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Hearing Loss

About Hearing Loss

Life is enriched by the experiences we have through our five senses:  sight, touch, smell, taste, and hearing.  Our senses work together and enable us to learn and enjoy life.  Hearing is especially vital; it enables us to communicate our wants, needs and emotions.

Unfortunately, many people suffering from a hearing loss are either unaware of their condition or are too embarrassed to seek help.  You can’t reverse hearing loss.  However your professional at Heartland Hearing Center can apply the appropriate care and technology to lessen its effects, and improve the quality of sounds you hear.

Gradual hearing loss is a common condition and often occurs as a result of years of chronic exposure to loud noise.  Other causes include illness, ototoxic medications, earwax blockage, heredity and the natural aging process.  In the United States, approximately one-third of individuals over 60 years of age, and one-half of those over 85, has some degree of hearing loss.

You can’t reverse hearing loss.  However, your hearing healthcare professional at Heartland Hearing Center can apply the appropriate care and technology to lessen their effects and improve the quality of sounds you hear.  Unfortunately, many people suffering from a hearing loss are either unaware or ashamed of their condition, and therefore, do not utilize the advanced technology that is available.

High-Frequency Hearing Loss
In the first stages of hearing impairment, the high frequencies are usually lost first.  Therefore, difficulty hearing or understanding high pitched voices of women and children is one of the first symptoms.  It is important to recognize that hearing someone and understanding them are two different things.  High-frequency hearing loss distorts sound, which makes speech difficult to understand even if it can be heard.

People with hearing loss often have difficulty differentiating words that sound alike, especially words that contain S, F, SH, CH, H, TH, T, K or soft C sounds.  These consonants are in a much higher frequency range than vowels and other consonants.

Degree of Hearing Loss
There are five levels or degrees of hearing loss.  A person with normal hearing can perceive very soft sounds, whereas a person with a profound loss can only perceive sounds louder than 90 dB.

Type of Hearing Loss Lowest Intensity
of Sound Heard 
Normal range (or no impairment) 0 dB to 20 dB
Mild Loss 21 dB to 40 dB
Moderate Loss 41 dB to 60 dB
Severe Loss 61 dB to 85 dB
Profound Loss 91 dB or more

Prevention
Avoiding loud noise may help prevent premature hearing loss and the perception of sound lacking clarity.  There are easy ways to identify if a particular sound is potentially harmful.

  • Do you have difficulty talking or hearing others talk over the sound?
  • Does the sound make your ears hurt?
  • Do your ears ring after the sound?
  • Do other sounds seem muffled after exposure?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, the noise may be damaging your hearing.  Most people don’t realize how loud everyday sounds actually are.  Sounds above 85 dB are harmful depending on how long and how often you are exposed to them.  The louder a sound is, the lower the amount of exposure is required to cause damage.  If used properly, hearing protection devices can reduce the loudness of sound reaching the ears.

Are you experiencing any of these symptoms?

  • Does speech sound muffled?
  • Do you have a hard time hearing on the telephone?
  • Is it difficult to understand words, especially against background noise or in a crowd of people?
  • Do you frequently ask others to speak more slowly, clearly and loudly?
  • Do you turn up the volume of the television or radio more than others?
  • Do you avoid engaging in conversation?
  • Do you avoid certain social settings?
  • Do you feel embarrassed, frustrated or tired due to these symptoms?

Defining Sound
Sound is measured by intensity and pitch.  Intensity is the loudness of sound, which is measured in decibels.  Pitch is measured in frequency of sound vibrations per second.  A deep voice has a low pitch and frequency, whereas, a child’s voice has a high pitch and frequency.

The table below identifies decibel levels for common noises.  How long and often have you been exposed to dB 85 and above?

How Loud Are Everyday Sounds?

Noise Average decibels (dB) 
Leaves rustling, a whisper 30
A normal conversation 60
Vacuum cleaner, average radio 75
Heavy traffic, noisy restaurant, power lawn mower 80-90
(Sounds above 85 dB are harmful)  
Motorcycle, snowmobile 96-100
Chainsaw, jackhammer, Sports crowd, rock concert 106-115
Loud symphony 120-129
Gun shot, siren at 100 feet 140

Nearly 30 million Americans will be exposed to dangerous noise levels today.  With 10 million Americans suffering from irreversible hearing damage due to noise, it is never too early to start actively protecting your hearing.  Remove yourself from loud settings.  Turn down the radio and television.  Wear earplugs if you cannot avoid loud environments.  Start today.

Speak to your hearing healthcare professional at Heartland Hearing Center about the prevention and treatment of gradual hearing loss.