While millions of Americans could benefit from hearing aids, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, a significant percentage aren’t using them. Even if your hearing loss is mild, hearing aids can improve your work, relationships, and mental health. Here’s more on what hearing aids for mild hearing loss could mean for you.
What is Considered Mild Hearing Loss?
Technically speaking, mild hearing loss is difficulty hearing at a level of 26 to 40 decibels. If you experience mild hearing loss, you may have trouble hearing:
- Conversations amid background noise
- Ambient noise, like refrigerators or water flowing in a stream
It’s important to focus more on how hearing loss is affecting you than on classifications like “mild,” Catherine Palmer, PhD, professor and director of audiology and hearing aids at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
“It is not a very useful term because an individual who is experiencing communication challenges who has hearing in this range does not consider this a ‘mild’ problem,” Palmer says. Hearing loss can interfere with work and school, cause loneliness and depression, and disrupt relationships. For children, even “mild” hearing loss can cause developmental trouble and difficulty making friends.
Can Hearing Aids Help?
Hearing aids are often recommended for mild hearing loss in adults and children, Alexandra Smith, AuD, clinical audiologist at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
“These are the people who tell us, ‘I can hear but can’t understand,’ especially in background noise,” Smith says. “Even with a mild loss, children with hearing impairment are at a significant disadvantage when learning those building blocks they will use to develop speech.”
Adults who treat their hearing loss might also improve their brain function and prevent age-related decline, according to 2019 data on 25,000 adults in the PROTECT study, an ongoing Alzheimer's research project from the University of Exeter and King’s College London.
If you’re concerned about what wearing hearing aids might look like, or whether they would fit your lifestyle, these are factors your hearing specialist will discuss with you, Palmer says.
Hearing aids can be tiny and inserted in the ear, or they can sit behind your ear. They can also be remote controlled, Bluetooth compatible and adjusted for background noise. If you aren’t sure if a particular hearing aid is right for you, you can request a trial period before you commit to it.
Hearing Loss Can Be Treated and Managed.
In many cases, hearing loss is a treatable condition. It’s worth taking the time out to get the answers and treatment you or your loved one deserves. Don’t wait. Start today.