The Five Levels of Hearing Loss

Audiologist helping couple choose hearing aids

Maybe you’ve noticed you’re missing sounds or misunderstanding more often. Maybe you’re just curious about what hearing loss might be like. Hearing loss affects at least 15% of Americans today, of all ages, races, and walks of life, though your risk factors do increase as you age. Here are the five levels of hearing loss, in order of severity.

Level One: Mild Hearing Loss

  • The quietest sounds you hear are between 25 and 34 decibels. Sounds below this range include normal breathing and the ticking of a watch.
  • Sounds within this range are sounds like soft whispering.
  • At this level, you may have trouble following conversations with a lot of background noise, like a crowded restaurant.
  • You may have trouble hearing soft consonant sounds in speech but can still easily hear sharp or loud vowel sounds.

Level Two: Moderate Hearing Loss

  • The quietest sounds you can hear are between 35 and 49 decibels.
  • Sounds in this decibel range would be a normal conversation.
  • At level two, your hearing loss may begin to impact your daily life, making in-person conversations difficult to follow and participate.
  • Phone conversations also begin to become more challenging at this level.

Level Three: Moderately Severe Hearing Loss

  • The quietest sounds you can hear are between 50 and 64 decibels. A louder conversation falls into this decibel range.
  • At level three, it is difficult to hear most sounds without hearing aids.
  • You may not be able to hear most conversations at all, or even be aware of a dog barking or other louder noises.

Level Four: Severe Hearing Loss

  • The quietest sounds you can hear range from 65 and 79 decibels. A loud dishwasher or washing machine typically falls in this decibel range.
  • Going about daily life at this level of hearing loss is extremely difficult, as you are unable to hear loud conversations and may miss other loud sounds like a baby crying.
  • Level four is “very hard of hearing”.

Level Five: Profound Hearing Loss

  • The quietest sound you can pick up is 80 decibels or higher, like what you might experience standing directly next to a running lawnmower or chainsaw.
  • Hearing is almost impossible at this level without high-powered hearing aids or even hearing implants.
  • At this level, you may be resorting to sign language, lip-reading and other body language cues to understand and be understood by the people around you.

If you're experiencing hearing loss, talk to your healthcare provider to get your hearing health back on track.


  1. AHSA (American Speech-Language Hearing Association) Type, Degree, and Configuration of Hearing Loss (
  2. AHSA (American Speech-Language Hearing Association) Degree of Hearing Loss (
  3. The Hearing Health Foundation website
  4. The NIH (National Institutes of Health) Website
  5. NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational, Safety and Health (NIOSH) Common Sources of Noise and Decibel Levels. National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health | NIOSH | CDC