Degrees of hearing loss

Mild hearing loss makes hearing soft noises and understanding conversations in noisy environments more difficult.

Moderate hearing loss means an inability to hear both soft and moderately loud noises. Discerning speech becomes very difficult if there is background noise.

Severe hearing loss makes even one-on-one conversations difficult without a hearing aid.

Profound hearing loss means only some very loud noises are heard. A hearing aid is essential.

Degrees of hearing loss

The following chart defines each degree of hearing loss.1
Degree of hearing loss Softest sound able to be heard (in decibels) Notes
Mild 26 to 40 dB Able to hear the loud or more intense vowel sounds, but may miss some of the softer consonant sounds. People with a mild hearing loss may have difficulty hearing soft spoken people and young children. They may also have to ask people to speak up or repeat themselves occasionally.
Moderate 41 to 55 dB In addition to missing consonant sounds, vowel sounds then become more difficult to hear. People with a moderate hearing loss often comment that without hearing aids they hear, but can't always understand.
Moderate to Severe 56 to 70 dB Without hearing aids, speech becomes inaudible. With hearing aids, speech may still be difficult to understand. You have trouble hearing or understanding everyday conversations or a telephone ringing.
Severe 71 to 90 dB Without hearing aids, speech is inaudible, but loud sounds like a baby crying or a dog barking are audible. Hearing aids may no longer be enough for people with severe hearing loss.
Profound 91+ dB Without hearing aids, speech is inaudible, but very loud sounds like a lawn mower or jet airplane are audible. Hearing aids may no longer be enough for people with profound hearing loss and a cochlear implant may be a more effective option

1. American Speech-Language Hearing Association. Degree of Hearing Loss. Available from Accessed February 2012


The information on this website is for educational purposes, and is not intended to replace medical advice. Please consult a hearing healthcare professional to diagnose or treat a hearing or health problem.