The Four Levels of Hearing Loss

Have you ever wished that people would just stop mumbling, that someone would fix this awful phone you’re using and, by the way – no, the TV is not too loud? Any and all of the above complaints could be normal everyday frustrations. Or they could be signs of gradual hearing loss.

The fact is: hearing loss is rarely sudden. Most often it follows a gradual progression that can be diagnosed and perhaps even halted. The first step, of course, is knowing what the four levels are and what symptoms are associated with each:


Mild hearing loss is often difficult for us to see in ourselves. One-on-one conversation is usually fine, leading many to believe their hearing is also fine. Background noise or group and telephone conversations, however, make it difficult to catch every word. The voices of women and children may be the most difficult to perceive.


Moderate hearing loss is characterized by the frequent need to ask people to repeat words and difficulty keeping up with normal conversation. This may cause frustration or misunderstandings on both sides. The use of hearing aids will alleviate the majority of these symptoms.


Overcoming severe hearing loss will require the use of hearing aids, as conversation becomes impractical or even impossible without assistance. Some lip reading or even sign language may be employed to further assist.


Those with profound hearing loss must rely on lipreading and sign language, in conjunction with the use of properly fit hearing and assistive listening devices they may hear only very loud sounds or no sound at all.

Regardless of what level of hearing loss you may find yourself in, protecting your ears is of vital importance. Simple measures like turning down the volume on your music or wearing protective equipment will help, but at Schneiker Audiology Services we understand that everyone’s situation, including yours, is unique. That’s why we’d love to have you come in to discuss your personal circumstances and how we can improve your specific situation.

Book a hearing test today, and discover how our family style service can make a difference in your life.

What to expect from your first Audiology assessment…

If you have never had an audiology assessment before, it’s normal to feel a little unsure about what to expect. The vast majority of people who visit an Audiologist have been referred by either a doctor or a specialist for suspected hearing aid problems. There are a range of key points to remember when visiting an Audiologist that may put you at ease.

Talk with your Family or Friends about it

Before scheduling your appointment, check in with family or friends that are happy, satisfied wearers of hearing aids. Find out where they experienced the most success with their appointments and their experiences. This may assist in choosing the right hearing aid clinic for you.

Search the internet for local hearing aid clinics

Finding a hearing aid clinic that are miles away offers no benefit to you. Visit websites for local hearing aid clinics, reading some of the content, and judge whether it resonates with you. Does it seem real or “canned”? Is it current information? If you get a feel that the clinic you are researching is genuine in their willingness to help, they likely are. If the content is more self-promoting and sales-oriented, they may just be looking to make a buck or trying to tie you into some sort of sales plan that isn’t relevant to your needs.

Make a surprise walk-in visit to your hearing aid clinic

Why you want to make an unscheduled appearance at your chosen hearing aid clinic is to judge the feel of the clinic. Making that initial contact, whether it is positive or negative, will give you a better indication on if a hearing aid clinic is right for you. A brief surprise walk-in visit will tell you if it’s welcoming, accessible, professional, and a business you want to invest your trust, time, and finances in.

Book an appointment to see an ‘Audiologist’

When you’re booking your initial appointment, ask whether the Audiologist or owner will be conducting the assessment. Any hesitation with this question would lead me to believe an assistant, or a student may be performing the testing. An Audiologist will give you the best care possible from an expert mind in the hearing healthcare profession. It also promises a level of certification. If the office manager you speak with books an appointment within a reasonable amount of time – let’s say, within one month (or sooner if there is an urgent request) – and does so with an Audiologist, that would solidify your next step to booking the appointment.

What to expect with your Audiology appointment…

Should you choose to invest your time in an appointment with Schneiker Audiology, on the day of, you will fill out a little bit of paperwork and case history info. Then, you will spend up to an hour and a half with our Doctor of Audiology, Kathleen. Throughout this sixty to ninety minutes, all diagnostic hearing assessments will be conducted followed by extensive explanations of the test results and recommendations moving forward. This series of tests will be used to determine whether there is hearing loss, the cause of that hearing loss, the degree and configuration of hearing loss in one or both ears, and the best treatment options possible.

It is important to keep in mind that your hearing healthcare and your hearing aids’ performance should only be attended to by a hearing healthcare professional, such as a Doctor of Audiology or a Hearing Instrument Specialist. All of the specialist at Schneiker Audiology are highly trained professionals who specialize in evaluating, diagnosing, treating, and managing issues related to hearing. Contact us today to schedule your first appointment or don’t hesitate to stop in for a surprise visit!

Preventable Hearing Loss: Give Your Ears a Break

Sarnia is a community of hardworking people who know the value of a good day’s work and some well-earned R&R. With that in mind, we wanted to take a few moments for a word of caution: our minds and muscles are not the only parts of us that need a break now and then. Your ears get stressed out too, and just like the rest of you, they need a chance to rest and recover.

Noise induced hearing loss is the only truly preventable form. Especially in our area of heavy industry, we might be tempted to think that noise induced hearing loss is strictly a workplace problem, and of course, we should all be concerned with safety on the job. Following safety guidelines and always wearing our PPE will mitigate much of the potential for traumatic hearing loss.

However, the workplace is not the only area where potentially damaging noise levels exist. Any noises above 85 decibels will cause damage if the exposure is long enough. Some examples of common noises that exceed 85 decibels are heavy traffic, loud music (either with headphones or in the confined space of a car), movies, passing motorcycles, and power tools. Since many of our hobbies may include some of these sources of noise, we need to be careful about our ears during leisure time as well.

The key here is remembering that it is not simply the volume of the noise that counts, but also the frequency and duration of the noise. For example, let’s say you come home from an eight hour work day in which proper care limited your noise exposure to the legal limit of 8 hours at 85 decibels. Then, you turn up some music or blow off steam in the workshop. It’s a great way to relax, but adding extra time to your noise exposure can start damaging your hearing. What’s the takeaway? Give your ears a rest.

We all need to take breaks from the busy, often chaotic, lives we lead. Your ears are no different. So even in your personal activities, pay attention to the noise you are exposing yourself to and consider giving your ears the break they need.

A World of Difference

Skill is something easy to admire. We appreciate a virtuoso performance simply because it is great to see talent in action. At the same time, we often can’t help but root for the underdog because there’s just something about the spirit that drives someone to perform against the odds. Combine the two though – skill and heart – and you end up with something amazing. Of course, we may not be virtuosos or underdogs, but it is that heart and passion for what we do that sets us apart from more typical audiology services.

We are driven by a belief that what we do can and does bring real and lasting benefits to the lives of our patients. For example, our Doctor of Audiology Kathleen Schneiker, has this to say about her chosen career:

“I became interested in the industry mainly because of my grandmother. She suffered from Meniere’s disease and wore hearing aids, unsuccessfully, for decades until I attained my Master’s Degree in Audiology and fit her with appropriate technology that worked for her. Everyone in my family wears hearing aids and I am so excited to improve their quality of life.”

At the same time we struggle with the reality that these devices, which can have such a positive impact, still carry a stigma that prevents many from getting the help they need. It is important to us that we educate people about what kind of services and technology now exist that can make all the difference in the world to their well-being. Quality hearing healthcare exists and we want everyone to know it and experience it.

That’s the difference for us and our staff: the passion that drives our efforts to offer the best care possible. It’s the world of difference we make in the lives of our loved ones – our family and our patients, that connects us to our work in the most meaningful way. We have every confidence that we can make that same difference for you. Check out our services to find out how.

Getting to Know Hearing Protection Options

Whether you spend your week working in a noisy industrial environment or use heavy machinery over the weekend, when you’re dealing with loud noises of any type, it pays to make sure that you protect your hearing.

In 2002, a US National Health and Nutrition Survey in 2002 revealed that loud noises are the number one cause of impaired hearing loss in adults.

And while noise-induced hearing loss is sometimes the result of a single event – like an explosion, for example – it is far more common for people to lose their hearing after years and years of over exposure to moderate or loud sounds, such as music or industrial machinery.

That’s why it’s important to make sure you protect your hearing at all times.

But, according to Statistics Canada, 41% of adults never use any kind of hearing protection at all when they’re around loud noises and only 24% of people always use hearing protection in loud environments. (The remaining 35% use protection on occasion, but not frequently or consistently.)

As audiologists, this is concerning, because it means that 76% of Canadians that work in noisy environments are risking noise-induced hearing loss every day.

To make matters worse, NIHL is irreversible and permanent.

But it is preventable.

If you’re not around loud noises every day, then single-use earplugs are a good, affordable protection against hearing damage.

To wear these disposable earplugs, simply roll the them into thin, crease-free tubes and gently place them into your ear canal. Once they’re there, they are designed to expand to hug the walls of your ear canal and provide your ears with protection from exposure to loud noises.

However, if you come into regular contact with noisy environments in your profession or day-to-day life, then it pays to invest in custom hearing protection.

Custom earplugs are designed to be used over and over again, which is ideal for people who work in loud environments on daily basis. They’re also designed to fit ear canals of all sizes, so that you almost don’t notice they’re there. (Although, you might need to work with an Audiologist to make sure you’ve got the right fit – it’s important that the plugs seal the ear canal without being uncomfortable.)

They’re highly effective too, protecting your ears from the harmful damage that noises above 85db can do.

And, best of all, custom earplugs are relatively inexpensive. Because they are designed to be re-used time and time again, they’re washable and easy to carry around in your pocket. (If you work in dirty or dusty environments and need them in a jiffy, you also don’t need to get them dirty rolling the tips like you would with non-customized, disposable ear plugs.)

However, custom ear molds do need to be replaced, depending on how much you use them. On average, you’ll need to replace them every two years or so, although you might want to do it every year or so if you use them a lot
If you’re prepared, noise-induced hearing loss is completely preventable.

The key is making sure that you are thinking about your hearing protection whenever you’re in noisy environments and – if necessary – taking the appropriate precautions against hearing damage.

But, when it comes to protecting your hearing, there is no one size fits all solution.

It pays to talk to your Audiologist about your options. They’ll be able to advise you on a protection that suits you, keeping you working comfortably and safely in high noise environments, without any risk to your hearing whatsoever.

If you work in loud environments or have a loud hobby, why not talk to your Audiologist today to see how hearing protection could help save your hearing.

The Dangers of Waiting

Bobby Baun is a legendary Toronto Maple Leaf’s defenseman, famous for scoring a Stanley Cup winning goal from a broken ankle. He’s now a spokesman for the importance of getting your hearing checked early, and admits to once being in denial about his own hearing loss.

“You don’t realize how much you become uncommunicative and how you think people are putting the blame on you for different things, so you lose your self-esteem.”

Like Bobby, we know the dangers of waiting to assess or correct your hearing loss may go even deeper than communication problems. Consider five potential risks for waiting:

  1. Personal Relationships. Much like Bobby mentioned above, your loved ones may find it difficult to communicate effectively with you and vice versa. This can lead to social withdrawal and tensions within existing relationships.
  2. Performance at Work. Like in your personal relationships, communication may become more difficult at work, resulting in social alienation and decreased opportunities for advancement.
  3. Auditory Deprivation. Just as with anything in the body, if your hearing is not used or exercised, it begins to atrophy. Auditory deprivation may cause hearing conditions to steadily worsen if left untreated.
  4. Depression. Along with the social issues mentioned above, both at home and in the workplace, comes depression. As we pull away from our support systems a correlation exists between hearing loss and depression among all age groups.
  5. Links to Dementia. We have previously mentioned the John Hopkins study that links hearing loss to dementia. Whether caused by added strain on cognitive function or by the ensuing social isolation, restoring lost hearing is the best kind of prevention.

Communication is so important, not just in our own lives but to our loves ones, our coworkers, and indeed, our own bodies. Without a doubt, at Schneiker Audiology, we understand your hesitation to confirm suspected hearing loss. We even understand that you may not want to think about treatment options that you feel will invade your life and privacy. The thing is – we also understand what an incredible difference we can make in your life.

Bobby Baun would agree: don’t delay. Contact us now to get started.

My Hearing Was Affected at Work, What do I Do?

According to Statistics Canada, 42% of all Canadians currently work (or have worked) in environments that required them to raise their voice to speak to somebody at an arm’s length away from them.

(For context, that’s roughly the same background noise level as a snow blower. That’s pretty loud – and not good for your ears.)

In these environments, proper hearing protection is a must; noise-induced hearing loss is most commonly caused by overexposure to moderate and loud noises.

However, it’s very common for hearing damage to occur slowly over time, which means that it might take a while for you to notice the effects.

If you’ve noticed any of the following, you might have suffered some degree of noise-induced hearing loss:

  • A constant ringing or buzzing in your ears
  • Sounds seem muffled or not as clear as they used to be
  • You’re noticing that you have difficulty understanding speech, particularly over the phone
  • You have difficulty following conversations if there is background noise (such as music or the TV)
  • You’re avoiding socializing with friends and colleagues
  • You often get confused about what direction sound is coming from.

If you have noticed any of these symptoms, speak to your Audiologist right away.

If you live in Ontario and have suffered a noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) as a result of your workplace environment, here’s what you can do:

The first thing you should do is to arrange an independent, unbiased assessment of your hearing to establish a valid baseline audiogram. (There’s normally a fee of between $50.00 to $150.00 for this, but you can typically claim this expense on your medical benefits or income tax.)

Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB) officially recognizes noise induced hearing loss as an occupational disease that can be compensated for by the WSIB.

As defined in the WSIB, NIHL is defined as a “permanent bilateral hearing loss resulting from being exposed to high levels of noise for a long time.” Basically, if you have worked in industry full time for five years, and your average pure tone average threshold exceeds 22.5 dB, you may qualify for compensation.

The NIHL program via WSIB is meant to assist workers in receiving the services and equipment that they require to address hearing loss and improve long-term quality of life.

(Before starting a WSIB claim, be ready to describe the symptoms and when you first became aware of the problem. It also helps if you can provide detailed information about your employment including dates and any relevant documents, as well as the names and addresses of any audiologists you have seen regarding your hearing loss. A WSIB decision on an NIHL claim can vary depending on how long it takes to assemble and evaluate workplace exposure information, medical reports, and hearing test results, so it helps to give them everything they need quickly.)

If you’ve been affected by NIHL because of your occupation, then we advise that you get in contact with Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW).

OHCOW can act as a liaison between the you and WSIB (Workplace Safety & Insurance Board) to make the process easier as you attempt to obtain a NIHL claim.

They’ll also help you arrange to get a calculated formula of your actual pure tone average thresholds (a behavioural test used to measure hearing sensitivity). Any knowledgeable audiologist can calculate this for you.

At Schneiker, we believe that seeking assistance when you’re making a WSIB claim for hearing loss is the quickest (and easiest) way of getting the entitlement you are owed.

If you’d like to find out more about OHCOW and how they can help with NIHL claims, here’s an in-depth PDF on hearing loss, the workplace and WSIB claims.

Loved Ones and Hearing Loss this Holiday Season

For so many of us, this time of year means turning the cold, dark months of winter into the warmest and brightest of the year by congregating with those we love the most. For your loved ones suffering from hearing loss, however, the holiday season can be a minefield of missed conversations, awkward moments and frustrating background noise. Often, it is the very merriment and lively group conversations we’re all enjoying, that causes the largest problem.

Background noise, multiple speakers or people speaking over one another, and indirect conversation can weaken a hearing impaired person’s ability to make sense of all the noise. On the other hand, no one with hearing loss wants to be the cause of subduing the party. So what can you do to make family gatherings more inclusive events? Here are a few tips to make the fun more accessible:

  1. Face the hearing impaired person directly. Allow for good line of sight between you and the listener and speak clearly, slowly, and naturally.
  2. Use your loved one’s name before speaking. Using their name gives them time to focus their attention on what you are about to say.
  3. Limit background noise where possible. Ambient noise makes deciphering sounds infinitely more difficult. Wherever possible, turn off radios or TVs that are not being used.
  4. Try not to repeat the same words. Sometimes, you’ll have to repeat yourself. Instead of using the same words over and over, which can be embarrassing for the one with hearing loss, try to find a different way to say the same thing.

With a little extra effort there is so much you can do to contribute to your family’s enjoyment of the holidays. The greatest gifts you can give to someone with a hearing disability, however, are the tools to enjoy the sounds of their everyday lives. Modern technology coupled with a caring professional can do wonders for many. If you know someone with hearing loss in the Sarnia area, Schneiker Audiology is ready to help. Why not book an appointment today?