A Basic Guide to the Most Common Types of Hearing Loss

12/12/2019 | Hearing loss, Patient Resources

Part of what I do as a doctor of audiology is to determine which form of hearing loss my patients have. Identifying the various types, through various kinds of assessments and examinations, allows me to determine the proper course of therapy or assistive listening device for treatment. Because I firmly believe in raising awareness and understanding of hearing loss, I have compiled this basic guide to the most common types of hearing loss to keep you better informed. I will discuss each of the three types of hearing loss, their causes, and the typical course of treatment prescribed to correct each of them.

Conductive Hearing Loss

When near voices (sometimes your own) or sounds seem faint and far off in the distance, this is a possible indicator of conductive hearing loss. The primary cause of this type of hearing loss is due to some form of blockage or malformation along the hearing pathway (outer, middle, inner ear). Temporary blockages might include:

  • Earwax Buildup
  • Swelling or Fluid from an Infection
  • A Growth or Tumor in the Ear Canal

More complicated blockages include:

  • Perforation or Scarring of the Eardrum
  • Otosclerosis. Abnormal growth or stiffening of the bones in the middle ear impeding the performance of these conductive structures.

Earwax, tumor or growth removal, the insertion of ear tubes, or medications to reduce swelling are common treatment options for temporary blockages. More advanced cases, labeled as permanent conductive hearing loss, may require more extensive and complex surgical repairs. Hearing aids and middle ear transplants may be the best treatment methods for permanent hearing loss of this type.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

In contrast to conductive hearing loss, in sensorineural hearing loss, the sounds make their way through the hearing pathway without impedance, but auditory nerve system damage prevents the transmission of sound signals from the inner ear to the brain for processing. The most common cause relates to damage of the tiny nerve sensors lining the cochlea, a snail-shaped, fluid filled organ of the inner ear. Various causes lead to this damage including:

  • Traumatic Injury
  • Excessive Noise Exposure
  • Viral Infections (measles or mumps)
  • Ototoxic Drugs
  • Meningitis
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • High Fever
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Acoustic Tumors
  • Heredity
  • Age Deterioration

Sensorineural hearing loss can usually be treated through the use of traditional hearing aids. However, rehabilitation for severe cases might include a cochlear implant procedure.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Though it is rare, hearing loss can be a combination of these two types. Mixed hearing loss often combines conductive hearing loss in the outer or middle ear with nervous or sensory damage in the inner ear. The use of surgical procedures and medications to treat each specific issue are common solutions for correcting this type of hearing loss as is the fitting of hearing aids and other hearing assistance instruments.

Hearing loss has destructive consequences, which disrupts your capacity to function in a world where hearing is of critical importance, threatening to reduce your quality of life. By identifying the different types of hearing loss, I am able to apply the solution best suited to the problem, often restoring your hearing and helping you get your life back to normal. My team at Audiology and Hearing Aids Associates and I focus our efforts on properly assessing and providing the right solutions for all types of hearing loss.

Contact me if you suspect that you’ve lost some of your hearing capacity for testing, diagnosis, and proper hearing health care from Audiology and Hearing Aids Associates.


Do you know somebody that needs to see this? Why not share it?

Erika Shakespeare CCC-A

Erika Shakespeare, CCC-A, specializes in pediatric and adult diagnostics and amplification. Working with adults to help manage tinnitus and hearing loss since 2002, she is an expert in both of these areas. Additionally, she is a pediatric audiology mentor and educator for pediatric audiologists across the country and is one of the most respected experts on pediatric audiology.

    Request a Callback

    Don’t want to wait? Call us
    at: 541-612-7555



    Erika’s Story

    I’m Erika. I love learning about new technology, particularly with technology designed to help people hear and connect to their families, friends and community. I first learned about the Jabra Enhance Plus 18 months ago in a tech talk related to OTC hearing aids. OTC stands for “over-the-counter”; this was driven by the PCAST report (President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology) that was published in 2016 and was rejuvenated by Biden’s Executive to the FDA to develop regulations and labeling on a new classification of non-prescription hearing aids that would be available to purchase by consumers without professional engagement.

    The purpose was to introduce lower cost entry to hearing aids for consumers. This is opening a whole new pipeline of devices from manufacturers of consumer electronics to manufacturers of medical devices to get into the lucrative market of entry level amplification. Bose had launched their new “hearing aid” which was a terrible flop, it didn’t have rechargeability, it had a ton of feedback (whistling), it didn’t even have basic streaming features. Signia launched a product, Apple Air pods added transparency mode and developed an app to “test” your hearing to apply mild gain to your Air Pod Pros, and Resound’s research team partnered with GN’s consumer electronic group that makes Jabra products to develop a hybrid hearing aid/consumer electronic sometimes referred to as a Hearable, PSAP (Personal Sound Amplifier), or and OTC hearing aid. Other companies have come out with products that they are marketing as hearing aids, the FDA has been playing whack-a-mole with these illegally labeled products. Whatever you may call the widget, it is an electronic device that is not programmed by a licensed hearing health care professional.

    I was awarded a slot to participate in a pilot project to evaluate the Jabra Enhance Plus product before it was released commercially to the public. I have been wearing the device for the last 10 days. I have about 4 pages of feedback for the developers for the app and also the device itself. Here is my pro/con list.

    Pros: The size and fit. It doesn’t look anything like a hearing aid, it is like a small button Bluetooth or wireless earbud. There is nothing hanging out of the ear to catch on masks. The green, faded yellow and red indicator lights on the device and the charger are intuitive ways to alert to battery life. The little charging case holds a charge even when it is not plugged in. It is easily portable, fits great in a pocket of my purse so I have them with me. The streaming is pretty seamless. The app controls are deceivingly simple, it seems like there should be more, but it is really just the volume up and down. They were a lot more comfortable to wear while reclining and listening to streaming audio than other wireless earbuds that I have used. It was easy to switch to a call while streaming. They enhanced listening when I was watching TV.

    Cons: The built-in personalization didn’t seem to customize the sound; The filter setting was something that I wanted to change frequently, but it is a buried feature in the app. The fit was sort of uncomfortable in one ear and the selection of domes were not adequate. The occlusion effect for my own body noises was significant. My voice sounded too far away for people on the other end of the phone call. The sound quality for phone calls and streaming audio was inferior to other wireless earbuds that I use. I struggled in noisy situations to hear other people over my own body sounds. They move a lot in my ears with talking. They don’t connect to my computer, so going between zoom meetings and phone calls or other activities was cumbersome and I have to switch devices.
    My overall assessment is that there is a place in the consumer electronic world for these cute little hearing enhancers, but they will not yet replace my wireless earbuds. I look forward to future software updates that will hopefully improve and expand usability (like connecting to my PC for zoom calls).

    Tom’s Story

    Tom was not as happy as Donna after his 10 days with the devices. He much preferred his own hearing aids. He did like that his mask never got caught on them. His biggest issue was that he got whistling from them when he turned them up loud enough for him to hear the TV. He did enjoy the streaming capabilities. He struggled the most with pairing the devices, which may have been because he used his Bluetooth a lot for other things and the Jabra devices did not seem to respond well to intermittent connectivity.

    Donna’s Story

    Donna wore the devices for 10-12 hours everyday for ten days. She loved how much better she heard in group settings and in conversations with friends and family.

    She mentioned that after a long day she did notice that her ears would get a little sore and she thought maybe a smaller prescription hearing aid would be better for her long term, but she thought these self fitting hearing aids were great and easy to use. She would definitely consider buying them and even had several of her friends ask where they could buy them.

    Linda’s Story

    Linda wore the Jabra Enhance Plus 5-6 hours a day. Mostly while watching TV. She loved how much easier it was to hear the dialogue on TV. She also enjoyed hearing her husband more easily while they were having conversations. She had little difficulty connecting the devices to her app, the most difficult part of the connection that Linda had was remembering her apple password. She was really impressed with the product and the price.

    Beth Story

    Beth wears the Jabra Enhance Plus about an hour a day, primarily for streaming while exercising. She loves the quality of the streaming for phone calls and listening to audio books. She tried the devices in a restaurant with friends, but really struggled to adapt to her own voice and thought that it was actually harder to focus on the voices she wanted to hear over some of the other environment sounds being amplified. She really didn’t find them helpful in the classroom like she had hoped, but she admitted that only tried them once in that setting.

    Jan’s Story

    I'm Jan. I have enjoyed being part of this new technology. After day two I did experience right ear canal discomfort and was not able to wear the device for a few days. I feel if the device was a little bit smaller it would be more comfortable for me.

    I felt muffled and my own voice was hollow. After a few days I didn't notice it as much. I am not totally comfortable with new technology but found the setup for Jabra to be easy. The charging was easy, and the hearing test was relatively easy. I have normal hearing, therefore did not experience a lot of amplification. I found the app was user friendly. I would recommend them to someone who had a mild to moderate hearing loss that could not afford hearing aids.