Health Library

Hearing Loss Evaluation

Hearing Loss Evaluation

Hearing is evaluated by a hearing test. During a hearing test, an audiologist presents pitches (sounds) at different volumes and finds the softest levels that a person can hear. These are called thresholds. The audiologist will present a pitch to each ear individually until thresholds are found. The degree of hearing loss is determined by the level of a person’s hearing thresholds.

Children with normal hearing have thresholds in the 0-15 dB range. Normal hearing is necessary for normal speech and language development. If you think your child may have trouble hearing, contact a pediatric audiologist near you to schedule an audiology evaluation.

Audiogram

An audiogram is a chart used to show a person’s hearing levels. The most important pitches for understanding speech are 250 Hz to 8000 Hz. The higher the number, the higher the pitch, or sound. These pitches are listed across the top of the audiogram.

A hearing test finds the softest levels that a person can hear. The level of intensity or loudness ranges from -10 to 110 decibels (dB). They are listed on the side of the audiogram. The larger the number, the louder the sound.

Chart for hearing loss evaluation.

Stages of Hearing Loss

Minimal Hearing Loss

Minimal hearing loss is thresholds in the 16-25 dB range.  This means that some soft sounds cannot be heard. You may notice your child having some of these issues:

  • Trouble hearing faint or distant speech
  • Trouble hearing speech in noise
  • Unaware of little cues which cause the child to be seen as inappropriate or awkward
  • Tiring more easily than other normal hearing children due to the effort needed to listen

Mild Hearing Loss

Mild hearing loss is thresholds in the 26-40 dB range.  This means that your child cannot hear soft sounds. You may notice your child having some of these issues:

  • Speech and/or language delay
  • Trouble hearing speech in noise
  • Trouble hearing increases as background noise and distance from speaker increases
  • Amplification, such as a hearing aid or FM system, is needed
  • With a mild hearing loss your child may miss 25-40 percent of the speech information in normal conversation.

Moderate Hearing Loss

Moderate hearing loss is thresholds in the 41-55 dB range.  This means your child is unable to hear normal levels of speech.  You may notice your child having some of these issues:

  • Understanding conversation at a distance of 3-5 feet only if the topic and speaker are familiar
  • Speech and/or language delay
  • Learning and attention problems
  • Having even lower self-esteem. Socializing with normal hearing children becomes even harder.
  • With a moderate hearing loss your child may miss 50-75 percent of the speech information in normal conversation.
  • Amplification, such as a hearing aid and a FM system, is needed.

Moderate to Severe Hearing Loss

Moderate to severe hearing loss is thresholds in the 56-70 dB range.  Many sounds are lost at this level.  You may notice your child having any of these issues:

  • Conversation has to be very loud to be understood.
  • Having a lot of trouble in situations that require conversation
  • Speech and language will not develop without therapy.
  • Having a poor self-concept and a sense of rejection
  • With a moderate to severe hearing loss your child may miss up to 100 percent of the speech information in normal conversation.
  • Full time use of amplification, such as a hearing aid and FM system, is needed.

Severe Hearing Loss

Severe hearing loss is thresholds in the 71-90 dB range.  Most sounds are not heard at this level.  You may notice your child having any of these issues:

  • Able to hear loud voices only about one foot from their ear
  • Your child’s speech is likely to become harder to understand
  • Speech and language will not develop without therapy.
  • Prefers other children with hearing loss as friends and playmates
  • Hearing aids may help you child. If they do not help, he/she may be a candidate for a cochlear implant.

Profound Hearing Loss

Profound hearing loss is thresholds of 91 dB or more. At this level, you are not able to hear sounds.  You may notice your child having any of these issues:

  • More aware of vibrations rather than sounds
  • May rely on vision rather than hearing as a primary avenue for communication and learning
  • Speech and language will not develop without therapy.
  • Your child may be a candidate for a cochlear implant.

Unilateral Hearing Loss

Unilateral hearing loss is when the child has one normal hearing ear and one ear with at least a mild permanent hearing loss. You may notice your child having any of these issues:

  • May have trouble hearing faint or distant speech
  • Usually has trouble finding the source of sounds and voices
  • Trouble picking up or understanding soft speech from side of bad ear, especially in groups
  • Is more tired and may have trouble paying attention or seem frustrated
  • Your child may benefit from hearing aid use or other amplification.

Last Updated 10/2016

Contact us.

Ask a question, request an appointment, refer a patient or place an order for a procedure in the Division of Audiology at Cincinnati Children’s.