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Moderate Hearing Loss and How Best to Manage It

Posted by Rosie Dooley, BSc (Hons) Audiology, RHAD on April 17, 2020

Moderate Hearing Loss and How Best to Manage It

Moderate Hearing Loss and How Best to Manage It

When a hearing loss progresses into what audiologists describe as moderate, it becomes quite difficult to ignore and very rarely goes unnoticed by the sufferer. Let’s talk about what makes a moderate hearing loss, how it will affect your daily life and what you can do about it.

What is a Moderate Hearing Loss?

When describing hearing loss, hearing care professionals will ideally stay away from giving overall percentages and look at the hearing thresholds on an audiogram between the frequencies 500hz and 4Khz. When these thresholds fall between 40-69dB(HL) on the audiogram, this is a moderate hearing loss. The audiogram is the chart used to plot the results of pure tone audiometry. A hearing loss can fall between different severities at different frequencies – if so it may be that there is a mild-moderate or moderate-severe hearing loss.

Effects of a Moderate Hearing Loss

The effects of a moderate hearing loss can be very different from person to person. This is because it will also depend upon how well a person can process the sounds that they can hear, this is a brain function and not an ear function! However, listed here are the difficulties a person with a moderate hearing loss may encounter. Some of these are relevant to mild hearing loss too. Following soft voices or when the speaker is turned away

Depending on the shape of hearing loss, some speech sounds will be heard more easily than others. For example, a person with a moderate sloping loss will hear the vowel sounds more easily than the beginning and ends of words and so speech can often sound mumbly or lacking in clarity. Especially when the speaker has a soft voice, it can be more difficult to fill in the gaps that are not heard.

If the speaker is turned away, there is no access to the visual clues of the lips that everyone can “read” to some degree. The brain has to work hard to fill in the gaps, and it cannot do it well all of the time:
“What is time?” “Yes, I would like some wine!”

  • Missing alert sounds
    People with a moderate hearing loss may not always hear sounds like a doorbell, alarm clock or phone ringing, especially if they are further away from the source.
  • Conversation over the telephone
    Once a hearing loss reaches moderate levels, conversation over the telephone is not as easy as it once was. This is due to the overall loss of sound and the lack of visual clues available.
  • Hearing over a distance
    The further a voice has to travel, the quieter it will be when heard by the intended recipient. If the recipient has a moderate hearing loss, there will be more speech sounds that they miss out on, therefore finding conversations that happen across rooms or listening to a speaker in a large room difficult.
  • Group conversation
    In a group conversation, it cannot be easily predicted who will speak at what moment. If the conversation is fast-paced, people with a moderate hearing loss will not always be able to keep up if they cannot access visual clues quickly enough to fill in any gaps in the speech that they might miss.
  • Background noise
    When there is competing environmental noise, like in a restaurant or cafe, the brain has to work harder to discriminate the wanted signal (speech) amongst the noise of the room. As low-frequency sound travels better than high-frequency sound, there is often a low “hum” of babble which those with a moderate hearing loss will hear, whilst being unable to hear the clarity sounds of the person they want to hear. If the hearing loss is asymetrical, i.e. one ear is better than the other, hearing in background noise can be more problematic as the sufferer will find it difficult to localise sound.
  • Television
    To compensate for the loss of sound, people with a moderate hearing loss will often increase the volume of the television or radio. This can cause conflict in the home environment if those with a moderate hearing loss cannot hear the television at an acceptable volume.
  • Unfamiliar accents
    When a person with a moderate hearing loss has a conversation with an accent that they are not used to, the brain has two extra jobs to do – filling in the gaps that they do not hear and translating the speaker’s version of words into their own. The brain can only do so much at once, therefore it makes sense that those with a moderate hearing loss will find accents more challenging than a conversation with a familiar voice.

Signs of a Moderate Hearing Loss

  • Having the television louder than others would have it
  • Missing alert sounds e.g. doorbell, oven timer, telephone ringing
  • Asking for repetition noticeably frequently
  • Mishearing elements of conversation and responding inappropriately
  • Becoming quiet in social environments
  • Struggling on the telephone

Management and Treatment

Unless the hearing loss has a conductive element (e.g. glue ear) then it is unlikely that the hearing will return to normal on its own or with medical/surgical intervention. An audiologist will be able to explain more about the type of hearing loss a person has and whether a referral to an ENT consultant would be appropriate. If not, however, hearing aids can provide the amplification needed to combat a moderate hearing loss. For those living in the UK, hearing aids can be accessed via the NHS if the individual meets the local provision criteria.

Some areas are sadly not funded to provide hearing aids to individuals with mild-moderate hearing losses. This is frustrating to both the individual and the NHS Audiologist as they will know how much benefit is to be gained. Anyone can access hearing aids of a wider range of styles and technology levels privately. Of course, if you live in Leicestershire, Warwickshire or Northamptonshire, we will always recommend you come to visit us at one of our Hear4U branches to see how we can help you. Private hearing care has become more accessible since the introduction of interest-free finance plans, which we are proud to offer so that we can help more people.

Assistive listening devices

Assistive listening devices that can connect wirelessly to hearing aids can be hugely beneficial in the management of a moderate hearing loss. Those who have greater difficulty processing sound in noisy environments are most likely to benefit from the use of a gadget called a remote microphone. Audiologists at Hear4U have access to speech-in-noise testing so are able to explain the individual ability to process sound in challenging environments and therefore whether a remote microphone will suit somebody’s needs.

TV streamers are a fantastic way to get the best quality of sound when watching favourite television programmes and mean that the hearing aid user and their family can watch at their own preferred volume. Most new technology private hearing aids will be able to connect wirelessly to mobile phones, but for slightly older models, a phone clip or adapter will enable the wearer to stream sound from their mobile (and more!). If you already have a pair of hearing aids and want to purchase an assistive listening device, head over to our sister site https://www.hearingaidaccessories.co.uk/ to find out more.

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