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What types of hearing loss are there?

Types of hearing loss

Hearing loss can take many different forms. When hearing loss occurs, it generally fits within one or more of the four categories or types of hearing loss.

Introduction to types of hearing loss

These types or categories are designed to help the doctor and, more importantly, you to understand why the issue is happening. For example, the category tells you whether the hearing issue has to do with nerve damage, some sort of trauma, or something in the ear.

There are also times when auditory deterioration stems from a few different factors, in which case it can fall into two or more of the categories at once. Below are the different hearing impairment categories and how they can affect communication.

Sensorineural hearing impairment

Deep within the ear canal is a tiny organ and nerve that controls how many sound waves you’re able to process and hear. If you suffer from sensorineural hearing impairment, the cochlea and (or) the nerve that processes sounds has damage or does not function properly.

When the organ experiences trauma from a third-party, it is then unable to send auditory information from the ear to the brain. Since it has to do with the nerves and affects the brainwaves, this type of hearing impairment is typically permanent.

Sensorineural hearing damage can have many causes, including:

  • Genetic issue
  • Aging
  • From a disease you contract
  • Severe accident
  • Exposure to extremely loud noises, even once

While this type of hearing impairment is permanent, the effects can reduce slightly through the use of new technology like hearing aids and cochlear implants.

You may have sensorineural hearing impairment if you have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Normal noise levels are too loud or too quiet
  • Speech sounds slurred or mumbled even when people speak clearly
  • Inability to follow a conversation when more than one person speaks
  • Hear a persistent white noise
  • Noisy public places makes it hard to focus on and listen to any singular thing
  • Feel imbalance or dizzy

Conductive hearing impairment

Conductive is much less common for types of hearing loss, in comparison to sensorineural. Conductive hearing issues arise when an obstruction or some type of trauma happens to the outer part of the ear or directly to the middle.

It prevents any sound waves from going into the inner part of the ear so you cannot hear anything. This problem can be permanent or temporary, depending on what causes the issue in the first place.

As for the cause, conductive hearing issues can be due to several things, depending on the place in your ear where the damage occurs. Here are some examples:

Outer ear causes

  • Too much wax build-up
  • Ear canal gets too narrow
  • Bone protrusions block the inner ear
  • Swimmer’s ear
  • Foreign bodies go into the ear and causing obstructions
  • Microtia

Middle ear causes

  • Injury to the eardrum
  • Rapid air pressure changes
  • Tympanic membrane gets too thick
  • Ear infection
  • Fluid build-up
  • Otosclerosis
  • Tumor in middle ear
  • Breaks in bones of middle ear

Treating conductive types of hearing loss

Once doctors find the cause of the issue, they may decide to either give you antibiotics to treat things like wax or infections. Alternatively, the expert can perform a simple surgical procedure to fix the issue quickly, depending on what’s best for you.

The conductive types of hearing loss may be difficult to treat, but are not usually a permanent hearing problem.

Auditory processing disorder

Auditory processing disorders make it difficult for a person to figure out where sounds str coming from, which can make life difficult to sort out. Furthermore, you might feel in a constant state of confusion, especially when in loud places.

With the help of modern technology, such hearing aids, some of the symptoms can be alleviated. But they don’t go away completely.

As for why these problems happen, it’s when your brain cannot process the sound waves that are being sent to them. An auditory processing disorder can affect everything from sleep to balance, as well as the ability to speak or communicate properly.

Mixed hearing disorders

Mixed hearing disorders happen when you suffer from both conductive and sensorineural hearing issues at the same time. The sensorineural part of the mixed hearing disorder is a permanent issue, while the conductive component can be either permanent or temporary.

While a mixed hearing disorder is not completely fixable, at least one component can be treatable. That way at least you get some relief if not making the disorder completely better.

Final words on types of hearing loss

Hearing impairment can make the world a lot harder to navigate. It can be more difficult to communicate with others and make you feel disoriented and tired as you try to live a normal life.

Thanks to modern medicine and technology, there have been improvements in the options available. That’s terrific news for people, providing hope in hearing normally once again.

4 thoughts on “What types of hearing loss are there?”

  1. A couple of my adult children teased me about hearing them, and I denied it for a couple years. Turns out they were right! It’s a minor issue related to aging, but it just goes to show that if you’re constantly asking “what” or “pardon” you may want to have your hearing evaluated. Thanks, Christy!

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