What are the types of hearing loss?

Hearing loss can happen gradually as you age, or can be the cause of an injury, illness or infection that impacts your ears. If you have noticed that your hearing is not as sharp as it used to be, it is important to contract your doctor as soon as possible to determine what type of hearing loss you are experiencing and how severe it may be. Our audiologists perform comprehensive hearing evaluations (audiograms) to characterize the type and severity of hearing loss.  

Hearing loss is defined as one of three types:

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss results from something blocking the sound conducting mechanism of the ear. This can be due to a buildup of earwax, fluid in the middle ear, a growth of tissue (cholesteatoma) or problems with the small hearing bones (ossicles). Treating conductive hearing loss can range from taking antibiotics to surgical intervention depending on the type and severity of the condition.   

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss is often considered permanent hearing loss because of nerve or inner ear damage caused by advanced age, continued exposure to loud noises, illness, ear trauma and more. Sensorineural hearing loss is typically addressed with hearing aids, but depending on the severity, may treated through surgical or implantable devices, such as a cochlear implant.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss occurs when someone has hearing issues resulting from both conductive and sensorineural causes. With mixed hearing loss, there is typically a combination of issues that impact the outer, middle and/or inner ears.

What are the risks and causes of hearing loss?

While hearing loss cannot always be avoided, understanding the risks and causes of hearing loss can help you identify when you may need treatment and/or prevention. Common risks and causes of hearing loss include:

  • Aging
  • Buildup of earwax
  • Eardrum perforation
  • Exposure to loud noise
  • Genetics and family history
  • Medications
  • Unrelated illnesses

How can you recognize the symptoms of hearing loss?

Signs and symptoms of hearing loss can be easily missed or ignored. With hearing loss, it is possible that you don’t notice the subtle changes or you might believe the changes are something that will naturally improve over time. The sooner you can identify an issues, the sooner we may be able to start treatment, which can ultimately prevent long-term damage to your hearing. You may be experiencing one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Complain that others sound muffled or not speaking clearly
  • Frequently experiencing tinnitus (hearing ringing in one or more ears)
  • Cannot fully hear conversations or pinpoint words in a crowd
  • Continues to increase the volume on your television, computer, speakers and other devices.
  • Difficulty hearing or identifying consonants (i.e. s and f, m and n, or p and b)
  • Having to ask other to repeat themselves multiple times, including asking them to speak louder
  • Trouble understanding phone conversations, or prefer one ear over the other for phone conversations

If you experience sudden hearing loss and feel fullness in the ear, this is an emergency and you will need a hearing test as soon as possible to confirm the diagnosis. We want to start treatment soon after you noticed the issue in order to have the best chance of recovering any hearing loss.

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