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.


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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.

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