Types of Hearing Loss
If you struggle to understand people during conversations and frequently have to ask them to repeat what they say, you might be suffering from hearing loss. By looking at the types of hearing loss, we can gain better insights into the causes, tests and treatments available for your particular type of hearing loss.
There are three types, which involve damage to the inner, outer or middle ear and can be either acquired or present from birth. Read on to learn more.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss can be caused by infection, a perforated eardrum, or any number of diseases and conditions that block the ear canal and prevent sound from travelling from the outer or middle ear into the inner ear. It may alternatively be caused by a condition that prevents the middle ear from conducting sound vibrations through the stapes to the inner ear.
The result of conductive hearing loss is a loss of loudness and a reduction in intensity of sound. The degree of hearing loss varies, but can usually be overcome by simply increasing the loudness of sounds – i.e. by speaking loudly.
You cannot completely lose your hearing from conductive hearing loss. Medical or surgical means are often effective at removing blockages and fully or partially restoring hearing. If there is any hearing loss remaining, it can be overcome with the use of a hearing aid in most cases.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss can be the result of ageing, head trauma, excessive noise exposure, malformation of the inner ear, diseases and hereditary hearing loss. It commonly occurs as a person ages and is experienced as a loss of loudness and a lack of clarity in sound, often described as distortion.
Sensorineural hearing loss may be caused by:
- Inner ear dysfunction
- Hearing nerve dysfunction
- Damage to the organ of Corti
- Inability of hair cells to stimulate hearing nerves
- Metabolic problem in the inner ear fluids
There are rarely medical treatments for this type of hearing loss, and it is typically irreversible and permanent. However, hearing aids and devices are recommended to help sufferers of sensorineural hearing loss regain some clarity and loudness.
Mixed Hearing Loss
As the name suggests, a mixed hearing loss is a combination of sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. It is caused by problems in both the conductive pathway and the nerve pathway (the outer, middle and inner ear). As well as suffering permanent hearing loss in the inner ear, the person suffers from a conductive problem or blockage that prevents sound from travelling into the inner ear, making the degree of hearing loss worse.
The conductive component of mixed hearing loss may be treatable by medical or surgical means to restore some hearing. However, the sensorineural component of mixed hearing loss is generally untreatable. Hearing aids and devices are recommended for people with mixed hearing loss, but only once the conductive issue has been addressed by a hearing specialist.