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

Have you ever bought one of those “one size fits all” t-shirts only to be disappointed (and surprised) when the shirt doesn’t, in fact, fit as advertised? That’s really annoying. The reality is that there’s virtually nothing in the world that is truly a “one size fits all”. That’s not only true with clothing, it’s also true with medical conditions like hearing loss. This can be accurate for numerous reasons.

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

Hearing loss comes in different kinds

Everyone’s hearing loss situation will be as unique as they are. Perhaps when you’re in a noisy restaurant you can’t hear that well, but at work, you hear just fine. Or perhaps you only have difficulty with high or low-pitched sounds. Your hearing loss can take a wide variety of shapes.

How your hearing loss shows up, in part, could be determined by what causes your symptoms to begin with. Because your ear is a rather complex little organ, there are lots of things that can go wrong.

How your hearing works

It’s useful to get an idea of how hearing is supposed to work before we can figure out what level of hearing loss calls for a hearing aid. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Outer ear: This is the portion of the ear that’s visible. 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 comprises your eardrum and a few tiny ear bones (yes, you have bones in your ear, but they are admittedly very, very tiny).
  • Inner ear: Your stereocilia are found hear. Vibration is picked up by these fragile hairs which are then transformed into electrical energy. Your cochlea plays a role in this too. Our brain then receives these electrical signals.
  • Auditory nerve: This nerve sends these electrical signals to the brain.
  • Auditory system: From your brain to your outer ear, the “auditory system” includes all of the parts discussed above. It’s important to understand that all of these components are constantly working together and in concert with one another. In other words, the system is interconnected, so any issue in one area will usually affect the performance of the whole system.

Hearing loss types

Because there are numerous parts of your auditory system, there are (as a result) multiple forms of hearing loss. The root cause of your hearing loss will determine which kind 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, often the middle or outer ear, this type of hearing loss occurs. Normally, fluid or inflammation is the reason for this blockage (this usually happens, for instance, when you have an ear infection). A growth in the ear can occasionally cause conductive hearing loss. Once the obstruction is eliminated, hearing will usually return to normal.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss: When the tiny hairs that detect sound, called stereocilia, are damaged by loud sound they are normally destroyed. Normally, this is a chronic, progressive and irreversible type of hearing loss. Typically, individuals are encouraged to use hearing protection to prevent this type of hearing loss. Even though sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, it can be successfully treated with hearing aids.
  • Mixed hearing loss: It sometimes happens that a person will experience both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss at the same time. Because the hearing loss is coming from numerous different places, this can sometimes be difficult to manage.
  • Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: It’s relatively rare for somebody to develop ANSD. It happens when the cochlea does not effectively transmit sounds from your ear to your brain. ANSD can usually be managed with a device called a cochlear implant.

Each type of hearing loss calls for a different treatment method, but the desired results are usually the same: to improve or preserve your ability to hear.

Variations on hearing loss kinds

And that isn’t all! We can break down and categorize these common types of hearing loss even more specifically. For example, hearing loss can also be classified as:

  • Acquired hearing loss: Hearing loss that happens as a consequence of outside forces (such as damage).
  • Progressive or sudden: Hearing loss that slowly gets worse over time is called “progressive”. If your hearing loss happens all at once, it’s known as “sudden”.
  • Fluctuating or stable: Fluctuating hearing loss refers to hearing loss that comes and goes. Stable hearing loss stays at about the same level.
  • Symmetrical or asymmetrical: If your hearing loss is the same in both ears it’s symmetrical and if it isn’t the same in both ears it’s asymmetrical.
  • Pre-lingual or post-lingual: Hearing loss is known as pre-lingual when it develops before you learned to speak. Hearing loss is post-lingual when it develops after you learned to talk. This will impact the way hearing loss is addressed.
  • Congenital hearing loss: Hearing loss you were born with.
  • Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: It’s possible to experience hearing loss in one ear (unilateral), or in both (bilateral).
  • High frequency vs. low frequency: You may have more trouble hearing high or low-frequency sounds. Your hearing loss can then be classified as one or the other.

If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. But your hearing loss will be more effectively managed when we’re able to use these classifications.

A hearing exam is in order

So how can you tell which type, and what sub-type, of hearing loss you have? Self-diagnosis of hearing loss isn’t, unfortunately, something that is 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 bring it to a skilled auto technician. We can hook you up to a wide variety of machines, and help establish what type of hearing loss you have.

So contact us today and make an appointment to find out what’s happening.

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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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