Mild hearing loss may sound, umm, mild, but it’s quite the misnomer. Professionals classify any hearing thresholds between 25-40 dB to be a mild hearing loss.
But short of measuring your hearing loss precisely, how can you tell if you have mild hearing loss?
People with a mild hearing loss tend to be able to hear speech when someone is speaking close to them or if the room is quiet. They can hear when people are talking loudly, too. However, they probably feel that people are mumbling and/or that their ears are constantly plugged up. They also struggle when there are competing sound signals (for example speech and noise together). Also, quite a few people with mild hearing loss feel like they have an abundance of wax in their ear and that they would hear fine if it was just cleaned out.
Certain consonants are tough to understand
Some consonants (/f/k/s/sh/) are very soft, and people with mild hearing loss will struggle to hear those sounds. This could lead them to think people are not speaking clearly or mumbling. However, it is the hearing system struggling to hear those softer sounds that is causing their issues.
The good news is that mild hearing loss is correctable with hearing aids. With hearing aids, people with mild hearing loss will be able to hear those soft sounds. The hearing aids will also help them understand speech better when there are competing signals.
In the past, many people did not treat mild hearing loss because it wasn’t considered a big deal. But things are changing. Research is currently being conducted to show that treating mild hearing loss can prevent further atrophy of the hearing system. Other studies are showing the use of hearing aids can slow cognitive decline in older patients.
If you think you may have hearing loss or are experiencing any symptoms of hearing loss, mild or otherwise, it is best to schedule a visit with a hearing professional to have it assessed.