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Types of hearing loss
Posted by Susan Brown Good, Au.D., Doctor of Audiology on November 04, 2021
Three of the most common hearing loss questions and their answers
If you’re like us, you like to get to the bottom of any ailment you have. When you know what the exact issue is, you waste less time and anxiety and going-down-a-rabbit-hole Google searches wondering what it might be. And, because you know what you’re dealing with, you can address the issue precisely and focus on treatment — which delivers better, faster results.
You’re going to treat a cold differently than allergies. You’re going to manage a sprained ankle differently than a broken one. And is that feeling in my rib cage just heartburn and something I can treat with antacids, or something much more worrisome?
Similarly, if you have hearing loss, it’s helpful to know as many details about it as you can. What type of hearing loss do I have? What is causing it (or did cause it)? How bad is it?
When you know these things, you can address your hearing loss precisely, focus on treatment and get back to living life to its fullest.
What type of hearing loss do I have?
If you have hearing loss, it will fall into one of three types: Sensorineural Hearing Loss, Conductive Hearing Loss, and Mixed Hearing Loss.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss. It happens when the inner ear nerves and hair cells are damaged — most likely due to age, noise exposure, injury, or even illness. Sensorineural hearing loss cannot usually be corrected medically or surgically but can be treated and helped with hearing aids.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss is caused by an obstruction in the outer or middle ear — perhaps due to fluid, tumors, earwax, or how your particular ear is formed. This obstruction — whatever it is — makes it so sound can’t get to the inner ear. Conductive hearing loss can often be treated surgically or with medicine.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss is just what it sounds like — a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.
What caused my hearing loss?
Many things can cause hearing loss. The two most frequent causes are natural aging and exposure to loud noise (either overtime or a via sudden, extremely high-decibel sound). Age-related hearing loss (also called presbycusis) and noise-induced hearing loss (also known as NIHL) sound like they should be types of hearing loss. Don’t be confused — they are, in fact, causes of hearing loss.
Other, less frequent causes of hearing loss include:
• Genetics or heredity
• Virus or disease
• Ototoxicity (medications that damage hearing)
• Wax buildup or foreign object in the ear
How bad is my hearing loss?
The only way to answer this question is to have it measured by a hearing professional and charted on an audiogram. Using various tests, they’ll document your hearing thresholds, charting the softest sounds you can hear at different frequencies or pitches. The result will be an audiogram, which visually shows what types of sounds you have the most trouble hearing and how bad your hearing loss is.
A hearing professional can answer all your hearing loss questions
To be sure, we recommend you see a hearing professional get official, specific answers to all three of these questions.
Just as a consultation with a doctor — plus an exam and x-rays — will confirm sprain vs. break, a consultation with a licensed hearing professional — plus an exam and hearing test — can confirm the type, probable cause, and severity of your hearing loss.
Only then will you confidently know what you’re dealing with and — bonus! — you’ll be in the right place and with the right person to address the issue precisely, focus treatment and get back to living life to its fullest.