How To Explain Hearing Loss

How Do I Explain What it is Like to Not Be Able to Hear?
5 Helpful Tips

If you would like to know what your child or adult loved one is experiencing with their hearing loss, the first step is to understand more about their hearing loss.

Step 1:
Know what type of hearing loss you have
Following an ABR hearing test, you will have a better understanding of how much of a hearing loss you have.  This can help you, family members and friends understand what grade of hearing loss you are experiencing.  Your ENT and audiologist can also help you explain more about your hearing loss, such as if you have a mixed hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, or a conductive hearing loss and whether there is a surgical option for correction or the option for a hearing aid.  You can also learn if your hearing loss is genetic or if it is the direct result of living in your environment.

Step 2:
Realizing the challenges of not being able to hear syllables and sounds
Individuals with a hearing loss often have trouble determining certain sounds when communicating.  This can make it difficult on children in the classroom and for adults at work.  Below is an example of a wonderful tool called the “speech banana” that can help us understand what our loved ones are hearing or not hearing (based on different pitches within their environment).  The sounds that we use to produce speech in conversation have frequencies and decibels.  The most typical frequency and decibel for each speech sound has been graphed on the audiogram below to provide information about what sounds can be heard at specific degrees of hearing loss.  A child  or an adult that can hear the sounds of speech will have a much easier time imitating, understanding and learning spoken language when compared to that of a child or adult who can not hear all of the sounds of speech.

The audiogram below contains drawings depicting typical sounds and where they fall on the audiogram.  Jet planes, for instance, are loud, high decibel, high frequency, sounds while wind rustling leaves is a much lower decibel sound. A child may be able to hear certain low frequency sounds such as [m] but not hear higher frequency sounds such as [s] and [sh] even with the use of hearing aids.  Missing those sounds may change their understanding of what is being said. (*)

This is a typical "speech banana" audiogram. Please click to enlarge the image.

For example, knowing that my daughter’s unilateral (hearing loss in one ear) conductive hearing loss is moderate to severe (65dB/7db), I realize that she can hear dogs barking, phones ringing and lawnmower sounds when looking at the “speech banana” chart, but she may not be able to hear the (f),(S), and (th) sounds when certain words are presented to her during conversation as these pitches are typically recognized within a normal 20dB range of hearing.

Show your friends and family what sounds you have difficulty distinguishing between and hearing on the below audiogram with the speech banana.  This can help them learn to say certain sounds a little louder, or speak into your better hearing ear or to speak directly in front of you so that you can help determine what they are saying.

Degree of hearing loss ranges

0-25dB Normal Hearing Limits, 26-40dB Mild Hearing Loss,41-55dB Moderate Hearing Loss
56-70dB Moderately Severe Hearing Loss, 71-90dB Severe Hearing Loss,and >91dB is Profound Hearing Loss

– The (*) above text is sourced from

– Attached Speech Banana image sourced from American Academy of Audiology at

Step 3
Helping your family and friends understand how much you can not hear
Often times, it can be very dificult trying to explain to others what it is like to not be able to hear and what it is that you can and can not hear.  This can become frustrating for everyone.  However, if you can show them exaclty what it sounds like with your degree of hearing loss, this may be an eye opener for them and help them understand more about what you are experiencing.  Below are three examples of bone conduction sound simulations so others can hear how you hear:

Step 4
Helping family and friends realize how technology can help you hear better
Sometimes, it can be difficult convincing parents, spouses, family, and friends that you can benefit from the use of wearing a hearing aid or bone conduction sound processor.  Some people just don’t believe in hearing aids and that is okay.  However, always try one as an option just to rule one out.  Hearing aids are not meant for everyone.  Some individuals can not adjust to them and choose to live their lives without wearing one.  All of this is fine as long as you were informed about your options and at least tried one just to see what it is all about.  If you do choose to be aided and are convinced that by wearing a hearing aid you are hearing better, utilize the two below audiograms to show how a hearing aid or sound processor can help you hear better.  The two audiograms are actual evaluations of my daughter, Alyssa’s hearing, that show how her 65/70dB moderate to severe hearing loss is brought back within normal 20dB hearing limits when wearing a “BAHA” or sound processor.

Note:  X represents Alyssa’s left ear that hears at or near a 20dB normal range of hearing. A represents Alyssa’s right (Microtic/Atretic) ear while being aided measuring her within a normal 20dB range of hearing. O is her original 65dB/70dB hearing loss for her right ear.

Click on the below two audiograms to enlarge the images.

Ally's audiogram while being aided with the Oticon Ponto Pro

Ally's audiogram while being aided with the Cochlear BP100/BAHA3











Step 5

Always know your options so you can make the best decisions
After meeting with your ENT and audiologist and speaking about your options with a family member or friend, you should be able to make a decision and feel good about that decision you are making.  Also, the decision that you make is “your” decision.  Try not to let anyone influence you or make you feel bad because they may have a difference in opinion.  Take in as much information as you can and do your own research.  Together, you will have enough information to think about and be able to make the best decision.  When you do make your decision about a hearing aid, remember that it may take some time to adjust to your new hearing aid and that is expected.  However, soon you will realize how much of your life you have been missing out on.

*  See the documents “10 Helpful Tips for BAHA Wearers” and the “Comparative Review on the Cochlear BP100/BAHA3, Oticon Pronto Pro, and Sophono Alpha 1 (S)” documents on this site under this section).


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