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Different Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a major life event and occurs for many reasons. Audiologists do not define hearing based on percentage, as each person’s perception varies significantly.  Instead, we catagorize hearing loss based on degree and can be anywhere from mild to profound.

There are many causes for hearing loss, but in age-related loss (called presbycusis) the cause is generally:

  • A loss of the tiny hair cells that transmit sound waves in the ear
  • A degeneration of the cochlea
  • A deterioration of the aural part of the brain.

Age-related hearing loss is the number one reason people need a hearing aid. It usually affects both ears but not always at the same measure of loss.

Medically, there are several main causes of hearing loss:

Conductive hearing loss

Sound must pass through the ear canal to the inner ear, agitate the hair receptors, move through the auditory nerve and be interpreted by the brain. When the sound is diminished or interrupted by a blockage in the outer or middle ear, patients have conductive hearing loss. 

Symptoms of conductive loss include muffled sound, soft sounds and unintelligible speech at normal volume.  There are many causes for conductive hearing loss. Injury (head trauma, concussion, loud blasts), disease of the middle ear (fluid, bone hardening) and blockages (wax blockage in the ear canal) are a few of the reasons sound may be reduced to the inner ear.

Sensorineural hearing loss

As the name implies, this hearing loss is caused by a degeneration of nerves and sensory cells in the inner ear known as the cochlea. This is a cause of much age-related hearing loss. It can include ringing in the ears, called tinnitus, and is usually gradual in onset. 

Sensorineural loss is usually the culprit when people begin to have trouble understanding normal speech, or don’t hear or recognize sounds they used to take for granted. This hearing loss also increases when in crowds and other loud situations. Sensorineural hearing loss can also be caused by infections, drugs, injury or loud noise exposure, among other reasons.

Mixed hearing loss

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.  It is a reduction of both volume and clarity and occurs in both the outer/middle ear as well as the inner ear at the same time.  

Some or all of these hearing problems can be temporary or permanent. A thorough examination at Audiology and Hearing Solutions will determine the causes and scope of your hearing loss.

Neural hearing loss

If the auditory nerve is damaged, neural hearing loss is the result. An abnormal auditory nerve does not transmit sound signals to the brain. This is diagnosed most often when a person is unable to understand speech even at above normal levels. 
The causes of neural loss differ from those of other hearing loss in that they are often genetic and usually identified in infants with severe jaundice, low birth weight or infections either as a fetus or infant.  However, neural hearing loss is being diagnosed more with cognitive changes as we age.  

Audiology and Hearing Solutions is dedicated to not only getting to the bottom of your hearing loss, but recommending the appropriate treatment as well. Schedule an appointment with one of our professionals to find out what we can do for you.