Different Types of Hearing Loss

Different Types of Hearing Loss

One-third of people over the age of 65 and half of the people over the age of 79 are affected by debilitating hearing loss. The prevalence of hearing loss in older adults makes it most common cause of hearing loss. The conditions and causes of certain kinds of hearing loss can be indexed under one of three categories: conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss. These categories are diagnostically significant, as no type of hearing loss is the same, and treatments will vary depending on hearing loss origin, location, comorbidities and more.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

This is the most common type of hearing loss and is characterized by damage to the inner ear. Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is caused by inner ear damage, specifically, to the hearing organ, the cochlea.  With SNHL, soft sounds are difficult to detect, and louder noises may be muffled or distorted. Unfortunately, conditions that fall under the sensorineural umbrella are usually permanent. Age-related hearing loss is a part of the sensorineural family, along with hereditary hearing conditions. External factors that contribute to SNHL involve drugs that are ototoxic (harmful to the ear), blunt force trauma to the head and prolonged exposure to loud noises.

Audiologists are qualified to diagnose and treat sensorineural hearing conditions. Hearing devices are the most common solution for patients experiencing sensorineural hearing loss, as they amplify sound to enhance the wearer’s quality of life by allowing them to hear better and resume their everyday lives.

Conductive Hearing Loss 

Conductive hearing loss is when sounds cannot reach the inner ear, and unable to pass through the outer and middle ear. Conductive hearing loss makes it difficult to hear soft sounds, and similarly to sensorineural hearing loss, muffles loud noises. Conductive hearing loss can be caused by fluid in the middle ear, ear infections, holes in the eardrum, benign tumors, earwax impactions or other blockages in the outer and middle ear. This type of hearing loss is commonly temporary and can typically be treated with medicine or surgical procedures. A common condition under this type of hearing loss is temporary hearing loss as a result of earwax impaction. This can be removed by an audiologist via suction, irrigation, or by using special instruments Audiologists are able to treat this type of hearing loss as well and have the ability to perform procedures to remove obstructions from the ear canal.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss is an issue involving both conductive and sensorineural issues. This means that mixed hearing loss caused by an issue in your outer and / or middle ear as well as your inner ear. Mixed hearing loss, for example, occurs when one is suffering from two independent conditions such as hearing loss after an explosion and fluid in the middle ear. A mixed hearing loss diagnosis is contingent upon an audiologist identifying two different hearing loss conditions occurring simultaneously.

Audiologists can address mixed hearing loss and may treat the condition with a number of different interventions to treat each root cause. For example, if you are suffering from age-related hearing loss and impacted cerumen – the audiologist may remove the earwax and begin measurements for a hearing device.

If you’re concerned about your hearing health, The Villages Health offers free hearing consultation with one of our doctors of audiology. Request your consultation today.

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