Mild Hearing Loss

Mild hearing loss can be easy to miss and it often occurs gradually and painlessly. It is typically classified as a hearing loss of 26 to 45 decibels on the audiogram. It may be conductive, sensorineural, or mixed.

Audiogram Being Marked
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What Are the Effects of Mild Hearing Loss?

When you have a mild hearing loss, it may feel as though your ears are plugged or that people are mumbling. If someone is close enough, you typically won't have any trouble understanding them. However, if someone is farther away or if there is a lot of background noise, you may not be able to understand what people are saying.

Certain sounds in speech, like /f/, /s/, /th/, and /k/ are softer than others and can be harder to hear than stronger sounds. This means that you might be able to hear speech that's loud enough, but it may seem unclear. Plus, weak voices are more difficult to understand.

All of this can affect interpersonal relationships, social interactions, and even careers. A person with mild hearing loss is often told, "You can hear when you want to hear." Yet, they are truly hearing impaired and some situations are easier to hear in than others. At times, this may give the appearance of inattention.

If you have mild hearing loss, you will find yourself listening more carefully. You might even expend more energy and effort into understanding what is said, which can lead to fatigue.

Children With Mild Hearing Loss

Children with mild hearing loss have more difficulties than adults because they don't have a large vocabulary or experience to draw on. Also, children may need a louder speech sound than an adult if there is background noise.

In a classroom situation, hearing loss can be particularly difficult. Depending on the noise level and the distance of the teacher, a student with mild hearing loss can miss speech and classroom discussions.

For children, hearing loss can be part of a developmental disorder. Additionally, children who have hearing loss may develop speech deficits and problems with interpersonal relationships.

How Is Mild Hearing Loss Treated?

Even people with mild hearing loss may benefit from hearing aids. Not only will this help in day-to-day clarity, but it can also decrease fatigue from working so hard to listen and understand.

Many people with mild hearing loss will not bother to get hearing aids. Reasons include cost, the stigma associated with wearing hearing aids, and the limited perceived benefits.

However, hearing loss can progress. Untreated moderate to severe hearing loss is considered a risk factor for brain atrophy and cognitive decline. Studies are underway to determine whether using hearing aids to treat hearing loss may help prevent these problems.

Lifestyle Adjustments

Even with hearing aids, you can benefit from making some day-to-day changes to help cope with your hearing loss.

With mild hearing loss, you can benefit from making sure you select your seating carefully.

You can ask people to speak clearly, slow down their rate of speech, or ask them to repeat or clarify if you don't understand what is said. Many people who have mild hearing loss will read lips, especially in noisy situations. You might also consider using closed captions when watching television or videos to help fill in the gaps with words you might have missed.

All levels of hearing loss impact the person who has hearing loss, as well as those they come into contact with. While it is called "mild" hearing loss, the impact on communication can sometimes be anything but mild. 

Good communication strategies are helpful. For instance, you can try to avoid talking to a person with hearing loss from another room or with your back turned.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Hornsby BW. The effects of hearing aid use on listening effort and mental fatigue associated with sustained speech processing demands. Ear Hear. 2013 Sep;34(5):523-34. doi:10.1097/AUD.0b013e31828003d8

  2. Gustafson SJ, Camarata S, Hornsby BWY, Bess FH. Perceived listening difficulty in the classroom, not measured noise levels, is associated with fatigue in children with and without hearing loss. Am J Audiol. 2021 Dec 9;30(4):956-967. doi:10.1044/2021_AJA-21-00065

Additional Reading
  • Anderson K, Matkin N. Relationship of Longterm Degree of Hearing Loss to Psychosocial Impact and Educational Needs. 2007.
  • Moller K, Jespersen C. What Are Some Common Misconceptions About Hearing Loss? Audiology Online. 2013.
  • Resnick S, et al. Hearing Loss Linked to Accelerated Brain Tissue Loss. John Hopkins Medicine. 2014.

By Jamie Berke
 Jamie Berke is a deafness and hard of hearing expert.