Shot of a senior man drinking coffee and looking thoughtfully out of a window wondering about hearing loss.

Have you ever bought one of those “one size fits all” t-shirts only to be disappointed (and surprised) when the shirt does not, in fact, fit as advertised? That’s really aggravating. There aren’t actually very many “one size fits all” with anything in the real world. That’s a fact with t-shirts and it’s also relevant with medical conditions, like hearing loss. This can be accurate for numerous reasons.

So what are the most common types of hearing loss and what are their causes? Well, that’s exactly what we intend to explore.

Hearing loss comes in different forms

Everybody’s hearing loss situation will be as individual as they are. Maybe when you’re in a crowded restaurant you can’t hear very well, but when you’re at work, you hear fine. Or perhaps you only have difficulty with high-pitched voices or low-pitched sounds. Your hearing loss can take a variety of forms.

The root cause of your hearing loss will determine how it manifests. Lots of things can go wrong with an organ as complex as the ear.

How does hearing work?

It’s useful to get an idea of how hearing is supposed to work before we can determine what degree of hearing loss calls for a hearing aid. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Outer ear: This is the portion of the ear that’s visible. It’s where you’re first exposed to a “sound”. The shape of your ear helps direct those sounds into your middle ear (where they are further processed).
  • Middle ear: The eardrum and several tiny bones are what your middle ear is composed of (yes, you have bones in your ear, but they are admittedly very, very tiny).
  • Inner ear: This is where your stereocilia are found. These fragile hairs pick up on vibrations and begin translating those vibrations into electrical signals. Your cochlea plays a part in this also. Our brain then receives this electrical energy.
  • Auditory nerve: This nerve is inside of your ear, and it’s responsible for transmitting and sending this electrical energy to your brain.
  • Auditory system: All of the components listed above, from your brain to your outer ear, are components of your “auditory system”. The complete hearing process depends on all of these elements working in concert with each other. Put simply, the system is interconnected, so any issue in one area will usually affect the performance of the whole system.

Hearing loss varieties

There are multiple types of hearing loss because there are numerous parts of the ear. The underlying cause of your hearing loss will determine which type of hearing loss you develop.

The prevalent types of hearing loss include:

  • Conductive hearing loss: This form of hearing loss happens because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, frequently in the outer or middle ear. Usually, fluid or inflammation is the reason for this blockage (when you have an ear infection, for instance, this usually occurs). A growth in the ear can occasionally cause conductive hearing loss. Usually, with conductive hearing loss, your hearing will go back to normal as soon as the blockage is gone.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss: When your ears are damaged by loud noise, the tiny hair cells which detect sound, called stereocilia, are destroyed. This type of hearing loss is usually chronic, progressive, and irreversible. Usually, individuals are encouraged to wear ear protection to prevent this type of hearing loss. If you’re dealing with sensorineural hearing loss, it can still be managed by devices such as hearing aids.
  • Mixed hearing loss: It’s also possible to experience a combination of sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. Because the hearing loss is coming from several different places, this can sometimes be challenging to treat.
  • Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: It’s relatively rare for someone to develop ANSD. When sound is not properly transmitted from your ear to your brain, this type of hearing loss happens. ANSD can normally be managed with a device known as a cochlear implant.

The desired results are the same even though the treatment option will vary for each type of hearing loss: to improve or maintain your ability to hear.

Hearing loss types have variations

And that isn’t all! We can analyze and categorize these common types of hearing loss even more specifically. Here are a few examples:

  • High frequency vs. low frequency: Your hearing loss can be classified as one or the other depending on which frequency range is getting lost.
  • Fluctuating or stable: Fluctuating hearing loss refers to hearing loss that comes and goes. Stable hearing loss stays at about the same level.
  • Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either going through hearing loss in just one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
  • Symmetrical or asymmetrical: This indicates whether your hearing loss is the same in both ears or unequal in both ears.
  • Acquired hearing loss: Hearing loss that develops due to outside forces (such as damage).
  • Progressive or sudden: Hearing loss that slowly gets worse over time is called “progressive”. Hearing loss that appears or presents instantly is known as “sudden”.
  • Pre-lingual or post-lingual: Hearing loss is called pre-lingual when it develops before you learned to speak. Hearing loss is post-lingual when it develops after you learned to talk. This will affect the way hearing loss is addressed.
  • Congenital hearing loss: If you’re born with hearing loss it’s called “congenital”.

If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. The point is that each categorization helps us more precisely and effectively address your symptoms.

A hearing test is in order

So how can you tell which type, and what sub-type, of hearing loss you have? Unfortunately, hearing loss isn’t really something you can accurately diagnose by yourself. It will be difficult for you to know, for instance, whether your cochlea is working properly.

But you can get a hearing test to determine exactly what’s happening. Your loss of hearing is kind of like a “check engine” light. We can help you determine what type of hearing loss you have by hooking you up to a wide range of modern technology.

So the best way to determine what’s happening is to schedule an appointment with us as soon as you can!

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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