WebMD Logo Icon
WebMD Connect to Care helps you find services to manage your health. When you purchase any of these services, WebMD may receive a fee. WebMD does not endorse any product, service or treatment referred to on this page. X

What Level of Hearing Loss Requires a Hearing Aid?

By Jon McKenna
Medically Reviewed by Jordan Glicksman, MD, FRCSC, MPH on March 16, 2021
Different levels of hearing loss require different types of treatment. Learn if a hearing aid may be right for you.

If you suspect you may be experiencing hearing loss, you may wonder whether a hearing aid is in your future. Your audiologist, or hearing specialist, will diagnose your level of hearing loss with an audiogram, a test used to identify the quietest sounds you can hear, measured in decibels. Your hearing specialist may also assess how easily you hear words against background noise, Dave Fabry, AuD, chief innovation officer at Starkey Hearing Technologies in Eden Prairie, Minn., tells WebMD Connect to Care. The level of hearing loss you experience will determine whether a hearing aid is necessary.

How to Know if Hearing Aids Are a Treatment Option For You

The Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) recognizes five levels of hearing loss, from normal hearing to profound hearing loss. According to the HHF, a hearing specialist may suggest a hearing aid starting with the second level of hearing loss, moderate hearing loss.

  • With moderate hearing loss, you have difficulty hearing sounds quieter than 41 decibels to 55 decibels, such as a refrigerator humming or normal conversation. You may often ask people to speak louder or repeat themselves.“By the time they reach moderate degrees of hearing loss, at least half the people wear some sort of amplification, either a hearing aid or one of the low-cost personal sound amplification products, or PSAPs,” Fabry says.
  • With moderately severe hearing loss, you have difficulty hearing sounds quieter than 56 to 70 decibels, such as a nearby washing machine or dishwasher. According to the HHF, you will not be able to hear speech without a hearing aid. According to Fabry, the latest digitally programmed hearing aids make it easier for people with this level of hearing loss to pick up conversation without raising the volume or using special speech recognition techniques, like lip reading.
  • With severe hearing loss, you have difficulty hearing sounds quieter than 71 to 90 decibels, such as a nearby motorcycle. According to the Hearing Health Foundation, speech will be inaudible without a hearing aid or a surgically implanted hearing device.
  • With profound hearing loss, you have difficulty hearing sounds quieter than 91 decibels. According to the HHF, even very loud sounds, such as traffic and fire alarms, cannot be heard without a hearing aid at this point. “By the time you’re at a profound hearing loss, it’s increasingly difficult for people to wear hearing aids because, by the time they turn them up to be effective, they become uncomfortably loud,” Fabry says. While a cochlear implant or other surgery may be unavoidable, “a hearing aid might be used as an accompaniment to your smartphone [or] Bluetooth technology,” he says.

Hearing Loss Can Be Treated and Managed.

In many cases, hearing loss is a treatable condition. It is worth taking the time out to get the answers and treatment you or your loved one deserves. Don’t wait. Start today.