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.
Woman at the beach looking pensative.

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 it's 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.
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Moderate hearing loss

You will have difficulty hearing regular speech, even at close distances.
Read more

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.
Read more

Profound hearing loss

You may only perceive loud sounds as vibrations.
Read more

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. 
Hearing care professional advising a patient and showing an audiogram.

Read more about hearing loss

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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.

Other signs
Women talking in a noisy environment.

Causes of hearing loss

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

More causes
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Types of hearing loss

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

Learn more
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Hearing loss treatments

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

Treatment options
Hearing care professional testing a patient's hearing.