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

Have you ever purchased one of those “one size fits all” t-shirts only to be dismayed (and surprised) when the shirt does not, in fact, fit as advertised? That’s really aggravating. The fact is that there’s virtually nothing in the world that is really a “one size fits all”. That’s a fact with t-shirts and it’s also relevant with medical conditions, like hearing loss. There can be many reasons why it occurs.

So what are the most common kinds of hearing loss and what are their causes? Well, that’s precisely what we intend to find out.

Hearing loss comes in different kinds

Because hearing is such a complex cognitive and physical process, no two people’s hearing loss will be exactly the same. Perhaps you hear just fine at the office, but not in a noisy restaurant. Or, maybe specific frequencies of sound get lost. Your loss of hearing can take a wide variety of forms.

How your hearing loss presents, in part, may be dictated by what causes your symptoms in the first place. Because your ear is a very complex little organ, there are lots of things that can go wrong.

How your hearing works

It’s helpful to get an understanding of how hearing is supposed to work before we can figure out what level of hearing loss calls for a hearing aid. Check out this breakdown:

  • Outer ear: This is the visible portion of the ear. It’s the initial sound receiver. The shape of your ear helps direct those sounds into your middle ear (where they are further processed).
  • Middle ear: The middle ear is composed of your eardrum and several tiny ear bones (Yes, there are some tiny little bones in there).
  • Inner ear: Your stereocilia are found hear. Vibration is detected by these fragile hairs which are then converted into electrical energy. Your cochlea helps here, too. This electrical energy is then carried to your brain.
  • Auditory nerve: This nerve directs these electrical signals to the brain.
  • Auditory system: All of the parts listed above, from your brain to your outer ear, are components of your “auditory system”. It’s important to recognize that all of these elements are continually working together and in concert with each other. Put simply, the system is interconnected, so any issue in one area will typically affect the performance of the entire system.

Hearing loss varieties

Because there are numerous parts of your auditory system, there are (as a result) multiple types of hearing loss. The underlying cause of your hearing loss will determine which type of hearing loss you develop.

Here are some of the most prevalent causes:

  • Conductive hearing loss: When there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, usually the middle or outer ear, this type of hearing loss occurs. Normally, this blockage is a consequence of fluid or inflammation (when you have an ear infection, for instance, this usually occurs). In some cases, conductive hearing loss can be caused by a growth in the ear canal. Usually, with conductive hearing loss, your hearing will go back to normal as soon as the obstruction has been removed.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss: When your ears are damaged by loud noise, the tiny hair cells which detect sound, called stereocilia, are destroyed. Normally, this is a chronic, progressive and irreversible type of hearing loss. As a result, people are normally encouraged to prevent this kind of hearing loss by using hearing protection. If you have sensorineural hearing loss, it can still be managed by devices like 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 numerous different places, this can sometimes be difficult to manage.
  • Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: ANSD is a rather rare condition. It occurs when the cochlea does not properly transmit sounds from your ear to your brain. A device called a cochlear implant is normally used to manage this kind of hearing loss.

The desired results are the same even though the treatment option will differ for each type of hearing loss: improving your hearing ability.

Hearing loss types have variations

And there’s more. Any of these normal kinds of hearing loss can be categorized further (and more specifically). Here are a few examples:

  • Fluctuating or stable: If your hearing loss tends to come and go, it may be referred to as fluctuating. If your hearing loss remains at about the same levels, it’s called stable.
  • Acquired hearing loss: Hearing loss that happens due to outside causes (like damage).
  • Progressive or sudden: You have “progressive” hearing loss if it slowly gets worse over time. Hearing loss that erupts or presents instantly is called “sudden”.
  • Congenital hearing loss: If you’re born with hearing loss it’s known as “congenital”.
  • High frequency vs. low frequency: Your hearing loss can be categorized as one or the other depending on which frequency range is getting lost.
  • Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either experiencing hearing loss in only one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
  • Symmetrical or asymmetrical: This tells you whether your hearing loss is equal in both ears or unequal in both ears.
  • Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to speak, it’s called pre-lingual. Hearing loss is post-lingual when it develops after you learned to speak. This can have ramifications for treatment and adaptation.

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

A hearing test is in order

So how do you know what type, and which sub-type, of hearing loss you have? Self-diagnosis of hearing loss isn’t, regrettably, something that’s at all accurate. As an example, is your cochlea working correctly, how would you know?

But you can get a hearing exam to find out exactly what’s happening. It’s like when you have a check engine light on in your car and you take it to a skilled auto technician. We can connect you to a wide range of machines, and help determine what type of hearing loss you’re dealing with.

So the best way to understand what’s happening is to make an appointment with us today!

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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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