For 37 million Americans, the world is a very quiet place. Conversations have faded into inaudible whispers. Music has become nothing more than a faint hum.
Anyone who deals with severe or profound hearing loss knows how isolating it can be. When you can't hear, you can't take part in conversations. You can no longer be an active participant in the world around you.
Timely diagnosis and management of severe hearing loss may significantly improve your quality of life. As soon as you start experiencing the signs of hearing loss, see your doctor for an evaluation.
In this article, you'll learn the causes and types of severe hearing loss, and what signs to look out for so that you can get diagnosed as quickly as possible.
Signs of Severe Hearing Loss
If you lose hearing, either suddenly or over time, you'll have trouble making out the details of conversations. Sounds will become muffled and gradually fade.
Depending on the cause of your hearing loss, you might also experience:
- Pain in one or both ears
- Dizziness, vertigo
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Pressure or fullness in one or both ears
Often, people with severe hearing loss become socially withdrawn because they are embarrassed at having to ask family and friends to repeat themselves over and over again. People with hearing loss also withdraw from others because they are afraid of misunderstanding the conversation and answering with inappropriate or embarrassing comments.
Determining the Degree of Hearing Impairment
Your health care provider may order a formal hearing test also known as an audiogram. Doctors determine the degree of hearing loss by looking at the range of decibels (dB) -- a measure of sound intensity -- you can hear. People with perfect hearing can hear sounds of all different intensities. People with severe hearing loss can pick up only very loud sounds.
Normal hearing is considered to be in the range of 0 to 20 dB -- which denotes the softest intensity where sound is heard. People with normal hearing are able to discern sounds as faint as human breathing, which measures about 10 dB. Mild hearing loss is in the range of 26 to 40 dB, and moderate hearing loss ranges from 41 to 55 dB. Severe hearing loss is considered to be in the range of 71 – 90 dB. People with severe hearing loss have trouble hearing speech, although they can make out loud sounds, like a truck that backfires or an airplane taking off.
Types of Hearing Loss
There are three main types of hearing loss:
Conductive hearing loss occurs from a problem in the ear canal, tympanic membrane (eardrum), or the middle ear that prevents sound from being carried effectively to the inner ear. That problem can be caused by an ear infection, tumor, or fluid or an object (such as wax buildup) in the ear.