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The best hearing aids for severe or profound hearing loss

Last update on Jun, 28, 2024

There are several degrees of hearing loss, each with their own symptoms and complexities. Those living with mild hearing loss may occasionally ask others to repeat themselves, whereas those with moderate hearing loss might not be able to hear certain sound frequencies.

However, for people living with severe and profound hearing loss, even loud sounds are difficult to hear. Despite these challenges, there are hearing aids available to people living with severe hearing loss to help them engage with loved ones and the world around them. Read on to learn more about this type of hearing loss and what the best hearing aids for severe hearing loss might be. 

What is severe hearing loss?

Hearing loss is broken down into degrees of hearing loss, which relates to how loud in decibels a sound must be for you to hear it. To be classified as having normal hearing, you must be able to hear sounds  between -10 dBHL (Decibel Hearing Level) to 20 dBHL. A person is considered to have moderately severe hearing loss if their decibel hearing loss range is 56-70 dBHL, while severe loss is 71 to 90 dBHL. This means that for someone living with severe hearing loss, most speech is difficult to hear and you may only be able to hear loud noises, such as a lawnmower, vacuum cleaner or passing subway trains without the help of amplification.

Hearing loss simulation

Hearing loss simulation

What does hearing loss sound like? Watch to experience firsthand the effects of hearing loss over time.

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What causes severe hearing loss?

Severe hearing loss can be caused by numerous reasons. Causes of severe hearing loss can include:

Severe hearing may also occur over time and with age. This is known as presbycusis.

How do you treat severe hearing loss?

The most common and effective severe hearing loss treatment is hearing aids or a cochlear implant. They help amplify sound, bringing voices and everyday noises back to a more normal level.  A cochlear implant can provide hearing support. This is a safe and effective treatment method, but it does require surgery to insert the implants into the cochlea.

Which hearing aid is best for severe hearing loss?

There is no single best hearing aid for severe hearing loss. In fact, each of the three main styles of hearing aids (BTE, ITE and RIC) offers features that can meet your severe hearing loss needs and support your hearing health journey. Review the capabilities of each to determine which style might be the best for you

With behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids, the receiver, microphone and amplifier are all housed together in a shell that sits behind the ear and includes tubing that directs sound into the ear canal through domes or ear molds. BTE hearing aids can be useful for all types of hearing loss, but their larger size means extra power and amplification for people living with severe hearing loss. This makes them the most highly recommended hearing aid style for severe hearing loss.

The most popular type of hearing aids are receiver-in-canal (RIC) models. With these, the microphone and other processing technology are housed in a slim shell that sits behind the ear, connected by a thin wire to the receiver that sits in the ear canal.

RICs owe their popularity in part to their discreet looks and comfortable fit, but even more so to their versatility—they can be an ideal choice for everything from mild to severe hearing loss, depending on the technology and specific model you choose with your hearing care professional (HCP).

In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids sit completely in the ear canal. This type of hearing aid is smaller and more discreet than BTE hearing aids, but can still be worn by people with a wide range of hearing loss including severe, depending on the model.

Its directional microphones help focus sound amplification and help drown out unwanted background noise, making them useful for severe hearing loss. This type includes several related hearing aid styles—completely-in-canal (CIC) and in-the-canal (ITC)—that each offer their own capabilities and features.

Discuss your options with your hearing care professional (HCP) to determine which style might best support you.

What Can I Do With Bluetooth Hearing Aids?

What Can I Do With Bluetooth Hearing Aids?

Learn about Bluetooth hearing aids! With Bluetooth® technology, your hearing aids become a gateway to a richer life.

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Features to look for when choosing a hearing aid

Once you’ve considered how a hearing aid style can support your severe hearing loss needs, it’s important to think about additional functions and features that can enhance your listening experience. Take these features into account when you’re considering how to choose a hearing aid:

  • Bluetooth®: Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids offer the ability to connect your hearing aids to your smartphone or television without a cord or wire, sending sound directly into your hearing aids. This feature provides enhanced sound quality and convenience for everyday activities, such as watching TV, calling a friend or family member, or listening to music.
  • Rechargeability: Rechargeable hearing aids don’t require disposable batteries; instead, this style of device offers up to 40+ hours of use with a single charge. Chargers are small and portable, allowing you to take them with you wherever you go. This feature is very useful for people who are often on the go and looking for a more convenient option than disposable batteries.
  • Tinnitus masking: If you experience tinnitus—the perception of sounds without an external source—you may also want your hearing aids to address that annoying sensation. Many modern hearing aids offer sound therapy, a tinnitus therapy that’s programmed into the device. These treatments help distract you and reduce the perception of tinnitus to train your brain to ignore unwanted buzzing or ringing sounds in your ears.
  • Waterproof: Due to their position inside the ear canal, some hearing aids are designed to be water resistant to manage the natural moisture that develops in the ears. However, some hearing aids are designed to be more waterproof, making them a great option for people who are more likely to develop excessive sweat around the face, live in humid/wet environments or participate in water-based hobbies like boating or swimming.
  • Noise-canceling: No matter your level of hearing loss, you may find it difficult to focus on individual sounds or voices in noisy environments. All modern hearing aids now offer some level of noise-canceling capabilities to minimize unwanted background noise.
  • Feedback suppression: Hearing aid feedback occurs when the microphone picks up sounds already emitted by the microphone and tries to reprocess the sound through the hearing aid again, causing a high pitched whistle or screeching noise. Modern hearing aids are programmed to analyze background noises and feedback sounds to adjust the hearing aids’ sound emission, cutting down on unwanted feedback sounds.
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Get assessed for hearing loss today

If you think that you may be experiencing hearing loss, schedule an appointment at Miracle-Ear. The licensed hearing care professionals at your Miracle-Ear hearing aid center will be able to test your hearing and discuss how hearing aids can support your hearing loss journey.

Looking for hearing aids for severe hearing loss?

If you’re living with severe hearing loss and are unsure of how to manage your hearing, schedule an appointment with a licensed hearing care professional at your local Miracle-Ear Hearing Aid Center. They will be able to test your hearing, recommend hearing aid options and offer solutions to address your hearing loss and allow you to reconnect to your favorite sounds.

FAQs about severe hearing loss

Hearing loss can be improved with the help of amplification from hearing aids or cochlear implants. Hearing aids work by amplifying the sounds around you to a level that you can hear them with your current degree of hearing loss. For example, someone with severe hearing loss wouldn’t naturally be able to hear casual conversation, but hearing aids amplify the volume so the wearer can hear conversational speech.

Most cases of severe hearing loss are considered to be sensorineural hearing loss. This type of hearing loss occurs when there’s damage to the sensitive hair cells of the inner ear or to the auditory nerve that carries soundwaves to the brain. Once these delicate structures become damaged, they cannot be repaired, meaning that sensorineural hearing loss—including severe hearing loss—is permanent.

However, while severe hearing loss can’t be reversed, hearing loss can be significantly improved with hearing aids.

Hearing loss at any level can affect your life, involvement in everyday activities and even your ability to work. However, certain degrees of hearing loss are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) under particular qualifications. Your hearing loss is considered a disability if:

  • You have a hearing level of over 90 dB overall and 60 dB in the better hearing ear
  • You have a word recognition score of 40% or less in the better hearing ear
  • You have tested your hearing with a licensed hearing health care professional.
  • You have undergone physical examinations of your ears from your primary caregiver or hearing care professional.
  • Your hearing has been tested without any use of hearing aids or amplification devices

If you meet these qualifications, you may qualify to register as disabled. Your employer must then make reasonable accommodations to meet your needs under the ADA, allowing you to continue to work in a way that aligns with your hearing loss needs.

Hearing loss is not typically identified using percentages. Instead, experts use the range of audible sound to distinguish between different levels of hearing loss. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, a normal or baseline level of hearing is the ability to hear anything between -10 to 15 dB. The hearing loss range for slight hearing loss is 16 to 25 dB, mild hearing loss is 26 to 40 dB, moderate hearing loss is 41 to 55 dB and moderately severe hearing loss is 56 to 70 dB. The inability to hear sounds below 71 to 90 dB is classified as severe hearing loss
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