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Understanding hearing loss

Hearing loss can be something that happens suddenly if you’re exposed to a loud sound or bang. It can also happen slowly over a long period of time, which is often the case with age-related hearing loss. Understanding hearing loss is an important first step towards doing something about it. 
What is hearing loss?
Hearing loss means you have lost the ability to hear certain sounds.  Maybe you can no longer hear high-pitched tones, like the voices of women or children. Or maybe you can’t pick out a single voice if there is a lot of conversation in the background.
Sometimes hearing loss is temporary, like a ringing in your ears after a noisy concert. Most often, it is permanent because the mechanisms that help you hear have been damaged.
Levels of hearing loss

Hearing loss can be divided into four categories depending on the level of hearing loss*: mild, moderate, severe and profound. Watch the video to understand these four levels better.

*World Health Organization, 2016

Get a feel for what’s it like to live with a hearing loss

Click below to hear what everyday situations such as going to the restaurant and listening to music sounds like with different levels of hearing loss.

  • Normal
  • Mild
  • Moderate
  • Profound

Click below to take our free online ReSound hearing loss test.

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Mild hearing loss
You will have trouble hearing and understanding soft speech, speech from a distance or speech against a background of noise.
Moderate hearing loss
You will have difficulty hearing regular speech, even at close distances.
Severe hearing loss
You may only hear very loud speech or loud sounds in the environment, such as a fire truck siren or a door slamming. Most conversational speech is not heard.
Profound hearing loss
You may only perceive loud sounds as vibrations.
What is an audiogram?
When your specialist describes your hearing loss, he or she will always refer to the severity of the loss and its “configuration”, which means the pitches or frequencies you are unable to hear. 
These tones will be placed on a graph called an audiogram. 
An audiogram shows which frequencies you are able to hear, and at what volume. The audiogram gives your hearing professional a good idea of how severe your hearing loss is, and helps your professional select the best treatment options for you. 
Parts of the ear and hearing loss types

The ear is made up of three parts:

  • the outer ear
  • the middle ear
  • the inner ear 

Knowing how the ear works is important for understanding hearing loss. Hearing loss can be divided into three types depending on which part of the ear is affected.

Learn more about the ear's anatomy

Conductive hearing lossIf your outer or middle ear doesn’t transfer sound to the inner ear, you have conductive hearing loss. This type of hearing loss may be temporary or reversible. Often it can be treated by removing a blockage from the ear.

Learn more

Sensorineural hearing lossIf your hearing loss is located in the inner ear or in the nerve that carries sound to the brain, you have sensorineural hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is more likely to be permanent, but there are excellent treatment options available.

Learn more

Mixed hearing lossMixed hearing loss means you have elements of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.

Learn more
Read more about hearing loss

Early signs of hearing loss

One of the most common symptoms of hearing loss is the inability to hear high-pitched tones, such as female voices.

Causes of hearing loss

There are many different causes of hearing loss: noise, side effects of medication, infections or aging.

Types of hearing loss

There are different types of hearing loss. Only a professional will be able to say what type you may have.

Hearing loss treatments

Certain types of hearing loss can be medically treated, but other types cannot.

Quick online hearing test
If you can’t wait to see a hearing care professional, you can start by taking our online hearing test today.