Determining the Threshold: What Level of Hearing Loss Requires a Hearing Aid?


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May 17, 2023



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Hearing loss is a common condition that can significantly impact an individual's quality of life. However, not all cases of hearing loss require the use of hearing aids. Determining the appropriate level of hearing loss for considering hearing aids involves understanding various factors, including the severity of the loss, the impact on daily activities, and the individual's personal preferences. In this blog, we will delve into the topic of what level of hearing loss typically warrants the use of hearing aids. It is important to note that this information is for general guidance and consulting with a qualified audiologist is essential for accurate diagnosis and personalized recommendations.

Understanding Degrees of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is categorized into different degrees based on the severity of the impairment. The four common degrees of hearing loss are as follows:

Mild Hearing Loss: Individuals with mild hearing loss may have difficulty understanding soft or distant speech. Conversations in noisy environments may also pose challenges. However, they can usually hear and understand speech adequately in quiet settings.

Moderate Hearing Loss: Moderate hearing loss makes it challenging to understand conversations without the assistance of hearing aids. Even in quiet environments, speech may sound muffled or unclear. Background noise further exacerbates the difficulty.

Severe Hearing Loss: Severe hearing loss significantly impacts the ability to understand speech, even in favorable listening conditions. Louder sounds, such as alarms or doorbells, may still be audible, but day-to-day communication becomes highly challenging.

Profound Hearing Loss: Profound hearing loss indicates an almost complete or total inability to hear sounds without amplification. Even extremely loud sounds may not be audible or intelligible.

Factors Influencing the Need for Hearing Aids

While the degrees of hearing loss provide a general framework, the decision to use hearing aids should consider additional factors:

Speech Understanding: If hearing loss affects speech understanding, especially in everyday situations and social interactions, it is a strong indicator for considering hearing aids.

Impact on Daily Activities: Assess the impact of hearing loss on daily activities. Difficulty hearing the TV, participating in conversations, or enjoying social gatherings can significantly impact overall quality of life. When hearing loss interferes with normal activities, hearing aids become increasingly important.

Communication Challenges: Consider the challenges faced when communicating with loved ones, friends, and colleagues. Struggling to understand conversations or constantly asking people to repeat themselves can lead to frustration and social isolation.

Tinnitus: Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, often accompanies hearing loss. If tinnitus interferes with concentration or exacerbates the difficulty in understanding speech, hearing aids with tinnitus management features may be beneficial.

Individual Preferences: Personal preferences and goals play a crucial role in determining the need for hearing aids. Some individuals may prioritize maintaining an active social life, engaging in hobbies, or continuing professional responsibilities. Hearing aids can significantly enhance these aspects, leading to a more fulfilling lifestyle.

Consultation with an Audiologist

While this blog provides general information, it is important to consult with a qualified audiologist to determine the appropriate level of hearing loss requiring hearing aids. An audiologist will conduct a comprehensive hearing evaluation, taking into account the individual's unique circumstances, medical history, and lifestyle. The audiologist will provide personalized recommendations tailored to address specific hearing needs.

In summary, determining the level of hearing loss that necessitates hearing aids involves considering the severity of the impairment, the impact on daily activities, and individual preferences. Mild to profound hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids if it affects speech understanding, interferes with daily communication, and impairs overall quality of life. Remember to consult with an audiologist or primary physician for a comprehensive evaluation and personalized recommendations. By seeking professional guidance, individuals can regain their hearing and live an easier life! 

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Learn More About Hearing Aid Styles

Hearing Aid StylesA wide range of technology and a host of features are available in each hearing aid style. The cost of hearing aids generally depends on the technology and the number of features the instrument has and not necessarily on the style selected. Today's digital hearing aids are typically offered in various technology levels, such as basic, entry, advanced or premium level. Basic digital hearing aids generally require the wearer to make some manual adjustments in certain listening environments, such as turning a volume control up or down, or pushing a button to change listening programs. In contrast, a premium or more advanced hearing aid responds automatically to changes in the listener's environment, making changes based on the signals being detected by the hearing aid. The hearing aid wearer is not required to make any manual changes. As the level of the technology increases in hearing aids, so does the availability of advanced features. Examples of some of the advanced features found in today's digital hearing aids are shown below.When selecting a style the following is considered:The degree of the hearing loss (power requirements)Manual dexterity and visual abilitiesPatient budgetCosmeticsSkin sensitivitiesAnatomical/medical considerationsLifestyle and listening needsStyles of Hearing Aids Hearing aids are available in many different sizes and styles thanks to advancements in digital technology and miniaturization of the internal components. Many of today's hearing aids are considered sleek, compact and innovative offering solutions to a wide range of hearing aid wearers.In the ear (ITE)  Hearing aids worn in the ear are usually custom-fit, based on a cast or impression of the ear. They're available in different skin tones to camouflage with the outer ear. There are several styles each is listed below, ranging from smallest to largest.Completely in canal (CIC) One of the smallest custom styles, CIC instruments, fit deeply and entirely within the ear canal. They fit mild-to-moderate hearing losses and offer high cosmetic appeal, as they're nearly invisible when worn.In the canal (ITC)ITC instruments sit in the lower portion of the outer ear bowl, making them comfortable and easy to use. Because they're slightly larger than CIC models, they have a longer battery life, and can host additional features such as directional microphones for better understanding in noisy environments, and controls such as volume controls. They fit mild and moderate hearing losses.Full shell in the ear (ITE)Full shell models sit flush within the entire ear bowl. Their size allows the maximum number of additional controls and features such as directional microphones, which require space on the outer portion of the instrument. They use a larger battery size than the smaller styles and can fit a larger receiver with enough power for even some severe hearing losses. Because of their flexibility, they're widely recommended for mild-to-severe hearing loss.   Behind the Ear Behind-the-Ear (BTE) models sit behind or on top of the outer ear, with tubing/wiring that routes sounds down into the ear that connects to an ear tip or earmold to secure them in the ear canal. BTEs come in a variety colors to blend with hair or skin tones, and even chrome colors, leopard print and other funky designs to suit personal styles. Different BTE sizes accommodate different features, controls, battery types and degrees of power (larger instruments generally have more power than smaller ones). While many people choose discreet BTEs that are unnoticeable when worn, others are tempted to show off the cool designs. There are several styles each is listed below.Mini BTE with slim tube and tipMini BTEs are designed to hide behind the outer ear and have ultra-thin tubing/wiring to discreetly route sound into the ear. The tubing/wiring connects to a soft tip that sits in the ear canal but doesn't occlude it. The result is a natural, open feeling as airflow and sound enter the ear naturally around the tip, while amplified sound enters through the tip. This is known as open fitting and is recommended for mild-to-moderate high frequency losses.  Receiver in ear (RIC)RIC models are mini BTEs that have the speaker of the instrument incorporated in the ear tip, instead of in the main body of the instrument. RIC instruments fit mild-to-severe hearing losses. This hearing aid style looks similar to the Mini BTE when worn on the ear.  BTE with Earmold BTEs with earmolds fit mild through severe hearing losses. Their longer shape follows the contour behind the outer ear and can house many features, including a program button and volume control. The earmold color and style, as well as the wearer's hairstyle, determine exactly how they'll look on each person. Contact Naro Audiology & Hearing Solutions at 251-551-9441 to schedule an appointment at one of their four locations.

Get to Know the Outreach Team at Pennsylvania Relay

Pennsylvania (PA) Relay is a free public service that provides telecommunication solutions to citizens who are deaf, hard of hearing, DeafBlind, or who have difficulty speaking. With support from PA Relay, these individuals can place and receive calls through assistive services and technology. PA Relay has a team of outreach coordinators who visit various communities throughout the state to bring more awareness to this valuable service. Outreach coordinators connect with potential PA Relay users, their loved ones, and community members and inform them about the available solutions that could help them, or someone they know, communicate more efficiently and effectively.  PA Relays outreach coordinators Jenny Pearson and Thadeus Graham took some time to answer important questions about the free public service and their roles on the outreach team to help people understand how they can benefit from PA Relay services and the educational opportunities available through the outreach program. Keep reading to get to know your outreach coordinators!What are the responsibilities of your role as an outreach coordinator?Jenny: As an outreach coordinator, my main focus is educating Pennsylvania residents and businesses about the services provided by PA Relay and how those services work. Its my pleasure to travel throughout the state educating people about PA Relays services and how businesses and organizations can benefit from using PA Relay to connect with potential clients who use accessible telecommunications to conduct business. To do this, the outreach team exhibits at community events, gives educational presentations to local organizations, and provides training to businesses and organizations.   Thadeus: I educate people about PA Relay as well as assist people in gaining access to the free public service. As an outreach coordinator my role is to both assist our relay users as well as introduce people who could benefit from the service to PA Relay. I answer questions, help with equipment installations, provide a point of contact for our users, host presentations, or attend expos and health fairs to make sure everyone is aware of the services that are available to them.  How can PA Relays services help people stay connected, and how do you help people learn more about these specific services?Jenny: In presenting this information at public and private events, the outreach team can inform people on how these services work and why they are important for accessibility and facilitation of communication for people of all abilities.   Thadeus: PA Relays services help people stay connected by returning independence and autonomy to our users. It empowers people who are deaf, DeafBlind, hard of hearing, or who have speech differences to connect to standard telephone users directly through their adaptive equipment. I help people learn about these services through a variety of methods.  What kind of events do you attend as an outreach coordinator?Jenny: Some types of events the outreach team attends could be health fairs, senior expos, state and local fairs, church groups, chamber of commerce events, conferences, and virtual presentations.   Thadeus: I will attend any event that will have me and that will have a meaningful impact for my fellow Pennsylvania residents. I attend health fairs, senior expos, and host presentations at local organizations. I also work with community leaders to schedule town hall events or even host awareness nights at local sporting events. Ive met with PA Relay users in their homes to help them with their adaptive equipment on a more personal level.  What has been one of your favorite events that youve attended as an outreach coordinator? What made it so memorable?Jenny: I have been an outreach coordinator for six years and have experienced so many amazing events and interactions. Some of my favorite events involve educating seniors and their caregivers about PA Relay and how we can help maintain connections between those who use traditional telephone services and those who use relay services. Hearing loss is a common experience among those who are aging, and to be able to provide these folks with a solution like Voice Carry-Over or Captioned Telephone is incredibly rewarding, especially when they share their experiences with me. Thadeus: My first ever presentation will always be etched into my mind. It was a cold December morning just north of Philadelphia. I had just presented to a group of seniors about PA Relay. After the presentation I helped a few of them download and set up the Hamilton Mobile CapTel App on their phones. The joy they had calling each other and using their new adaptive technology made me realize how much of a difference this can truly make for people. I was hooked on wanting to help as many people as possible after that day.Do you offer educational presentations about PA Relay to local organizations?Jenny: Yes, we do! We provide presentations throughout the state, both in person and virtually. Some of the types of organizations we educate are service providers, health professionals, retirement communities, Deaf and Hard of Hearing support groups and organizations, local businesses and agencies, sporting groups, and church gatherings. All of our presentations are always no cost and can be scheduled at the organizations convenience.   Topics discussed during our presentations are general information about PA Relay, types of services provided and how they work, and how to use the service. The topics can certainly be customized based on the organization. For example, a group may be interested in services for those who are living with hearing loss, so we can tailor our presentation to address those specific services.Thadeus: PA Relay offers a variety of training as well as educational preparations to any interested organization across the Commonwealth. We can also provide training to organizations on how to properly handle relay calls. The Relay Friendly Business Training helps organizations identify relay calls and trains staff on how to properly handle these types of calls.During these presentations we discuss everything from the history of relay services to the different types of services. We discuss PA Captioned Telephone Relay Service and how to acquire adaptive equipment either through the states equipment distribution program, TechOWL, or other means. The topics and timeframe can be customized to meet the needs of the organization.  Is there anything else about your role as an outreach coordinator that youd like people to know?Jenny: As an outreach coordinator, the most important thing I do is connect people to resources they can use to make life a bit easier. Often, I present information to people who do not need PA Relays services, but they know someone who does. When this happens, its so rewarding to hear how they will share what theyve learned from me with those who really need assistance making and receiving calls. This ensures that connections remain strong, and people are able to live life as independently as possible.   Thadeus: The biggest thing I would like people to know is just how life-changing these services are. Even if youre not someone who could use PA Relay, its likely that someone you know could greatly benefit from the service.  How can an interested individual or organization reach you?Jenny: To learn more about PA Relay, feel free to email me at or call 610-737-7205! Thadeus: The best way to get in touch would be by emailing, or I am available by phone at 412-944-7424.  FEDERAL LAW PROHIBITS ANYONE BUT REGISTERED USERS WITH HEARING LOSS FROM USING INTERNET PROTOCOL (IP) CAPTIONED TELEPHONES WITH THE CAPTIONS TURNED ON. Advanced speech recognition software is used to process calls, and, in certain circumstances, a live communications assistant may be included on the call. There is a cost for each minute of captions generated, paid from a federally administered fund. To learn more, visit Third-party charges may apply: the Hamilton CapTel phone requires high-speed internet access (Wi-Fi capable) and in some cases, may require telephone service. When using Hamilton CapTel on a smartphone or tablet and not on Wi-Fi, a data plan is required. Hamilton CapTel may be used to make 911 calls but may not function the same as traditional 911 services. For more information about the benefits and limitations of Hamilton CapTel and Emergency 911 calling, visit Third-party trademarks mentioned are the property of their respective owners.

Hearing Loss in Older Adults: What to Know, How to Treat It

Hearing loss in older adults is a common concern. Age-related hearing loss affects approximately one in three adults ages 65 to 74, according to the National Institutes of Health. Nearly half of those ages 75 and older have some hearing loss.Age-related hearing loss can have serious consequences. Seniors with hearing loss can misunderstand or not hear a doctors advice, may not respond to warnings, or may fail to hear doorbells, phone calls and smoke alarms. Loss of hearing may also isolate seniors, making it hard to enjoy times with family and friends.Find out what you should know about hearing loss in older adults, how it affects overall health, and how caregivers can help those who have trouble hearing.Signs of Hearing Loss in Older AdultsSome people may have hearing loss without realizing it, instead thinking that people are not talking clearly enough or that the TV is too soft. Here are some signs that may indicate hearing loss:Asking people to repeat what theyre saying Failing to hear when children or women are speaking to youFeeling background noise is drowning out voicesFinding it hard to follow conversations when more than one person is speakingHaving trouble hearing a telephone conversationNeeding to turn up the volume on the TV, enough so that people complainThinking that other people are mumblingFor caregivers, they may think that their loved ones are confused, uncooperative or unresponsive, when in fact they dont hear well.How Hearing May Affect Senior HealthA study by the NIH shows that seniors with hearing loss have a greater chance of developing dementia, although not everybody will be diagnosed with it. However, hearing loss and cognitive decline in older adults are connected, causing problems with memory and concentration.>> Read Detecting Alzheimers Symptoms & StagesTypes of Hearing LossThere are many levels and types of hearing loss. Hearing loss may range from mild, which can interfere with high-pitched sounds like the voices of children and women, to profound, when only very loud sounds can be heard.Here are some specific types of hearing loss that affect seniors.Age-related hearing loss  This loss is called presbycusis. This is a gradual loss of hearing, usually runs in families and can occur because of changes in the inner ear or auditory nerve. People with this type of loss may not realize they are losing their hearing.Sudden hearing loss  Sudden deafness can happen all at once or over a period of a few days. This is a medical emergency, and seniors suffering such a sudden loss should visit a doctor immediately.Tinnitus  This hearing loss is common in older people. It primarily is described as a ringing in the ears, but can also sound like buzzing, clicking, hissing or roaring. It can also come and go, in one or both ears, and can be loud or soft. Tinnitus can be a sign of other health problems, so a follow-up with a doctor is essential.Causes of Hearing LossThere are a number of ways someone may lose some hearing. Here is what causes hearing loss in older adults.Health conditions  Diabetes or high blood pressure can contribute to hearing loss in seniors. Other causes, like infection, injury, heart condition or stroke, may be to blame. Heredity  Some causes show up at birth, but some become apparent later in life, such as structural defects.Loud noises  This is one of the most common causes of hearing loss, from industrial equipment to loud music. Medications  Some drugs used to treat cancer or heart diseases are ototoxic, which means they may damage the inner ear, sometimes permanently.  Physical causes  This can include earwax, fluid or a punctured eardrum.Prevention of Hearing LossAge-related hearing loss is inevitable at some level, but there are things you can do to prevent the hearing loss from worsening. Avoid loud soundsMaintain a healthy lifestyleUse ear protectionYou should also alert your health professional of any changes in hearing or if new medications cause hearing problems.Treatment of Hearing LossIts important to address hearing problems so the loss doesnt get worse. You should see a doctor to assess any hearing loss. You should start with your primary care physician, who may be able to assess changes, will have a full record of your medications and can refer you to a specialist.Audiologist  These health professionals identify and measure the degree and type of hearing loss. They may also fit hearing aids.Otolaryngologist  This doctor specializes in diagnosing and treating diseases of the ear, nose, throat, and neck. Theyre sometimes called an ENT.If you have correctable hearing loss, your options may include:Assisted listening devices  There are cellphone gadgets or apps that can help amplify sounds. Closed-circuit systems in theaters, auditoriums and other public spaces can help, too.Bone-anchored hearing systems  These bypass the middle ear and convert sounds to vibrations that are sent through your skull bone to your inner ear.Cochlear implants  These are small electronic devices surgically implanted in the inner ear. Theyre meant for those with profound or severe hearing loss.Hearing aids  Worn behind or in your ear, they can amplify sounds. Hearing aids may or may not be covered by insurance, but a new generation of over-the-counter hearing aids are on the way.How To Cope With Hearing LossHearing loss can be embarrassing, but it doesnt have to be. People are usually all too eager to help if you let them know. Here are ways to ask for help, and how you can help somebody who has hearing loss.What You Should Tell People About Your Hearing LossLet people know you have some difficulty hearing, and then:Ask them to face you and speak slowly and clearly.Have them talk to you in a quieter place.Let the person know if you do not understand what they are saying.Request that they reword a sentence if youre having difficulty.Tell them to speak up a bit but not yell.How You Can Help Somebody With Hearing LossIf youre talking to someone who has hearing loss, this is what you can do to help them:Be patient, stay positive and relax.Dont hide your mouth, chew gum or eat while speaking.Face the person and maintain eye contact while you speak clearly.Find a quiet place to talk to help reduce background noise.Include people with hearing loss in your group conversations.Speak more loudly than normal, but dont shout. Speak slowly but naturally.Hearing loss doesnt have to be an end to gathering with other people and enjoying their company.