4675 West 20th Street Road, Suite A, Greeley, Colorado 80634
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1/10/2019

Is there a Difference Between Hearing Loss & Deafness?

Hearing loss can range from mild to profound. The World Health Organization (WHO) have stated that over 5% of the world’s population, which includes 432 million adults, has disabling hearing loss [ source: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/deafness-and-hearing-loss]. The most common impact that it has on individuals is their ability to communicate with others, and their feelings of social isolation.

The medical definitions for hearing loss and deafness are:

  • Hearing loss is a reduced ability to hear sounds.
  • Deafness is when a person cannot understand speech through hearing, even if the sound is amplified.
  • Profound deafness is the absence of hearing any sound.

A measure that is used for how much hearing has been lost, is how loud in decibels a sound must be for the individual to hear it. For example, a profoundly deaf person cannot hear sounds quieter than 90db. Hearing care professionals assess this during routine hearing assessments. In addition, they will test the frequency at which you can hear sounds, or if your understanding of speech is impacted.

More socially used definitions you may encounter are:

Late Deafened

These are people who have usually lost their hearing as an adult, or after learning to speak. They can communicate with or without sign language and rely upon amplification devices such as hearing aids to help them hear.

Deaf Culture

Commonly written with a capital ‘D’. Deaf culture can feel like a place of collective community. These are people who tend to communicate using a sign language such as ASL.

‘Deaf’ or Profound Deafness

This is typically how a person who cannot hear without amplification is described. An example would be Seahawks player Derrick Coleman who is ‘deaf’. With the use of hearing aids, he can hear play calls in the stadium and answer interviews after the game. With a lowercase d this refers more to the Hearing Loss and not to the Deaf culture.

Hard of Hearing

A person may not like to describe their condition in a medical way, instead they may prefer the phrase Hard Of Hearing (HoH). They may be uncomfortable using the word deaf or feel it’s not appropriate because when they use a device they can hear and converse.

The severity of a hearing loss can be measured on a spectrum, but the impact it has can vary greatly. Early diagnosis and support are important. Working together, we can help you understand your condition, arrange treatment and also assist with long term care and protection of your hearing. For more information or to book an appointment today, call us on (970) 352-2881 or click here to request an appointment online.

We are hearing experts.

Robert M. Traynor, Ed.D. MBA is the owner and senior audiologist on staff. Dr. Traynor has treated patients in Greeley for more than 40 years and is a widely published expert, audiology professor, and advisor to many leading hearing companies. Learn more about Dr. Traynor.