Types of Hearing Loss Explained

August 31, 2021

 

Hearing loss is the third most common public health issue affecting Americans (behind arthritis and heart disease). Estimates show that up to 65 million people in the United States have some level of hearing loss.

 

Hearing loss is the third most common public health issue affecting Americans (behind arthritis and heart disease). Estimates show that up to 65 million people in the United States have some level of hearing loss.

Hearing loss can happen at any time in our lives. Some hearing loss may be caused by genetics. Other hearing loss is the result of lifestyle factors or environmental factors.

Types Of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can be categorized into three main types:

  • Sensorineural hearing loss
  • Conductive hearing loss
  • Mixed hearing loss

Hearing loss can vary in its severity from mild, moderate, severe, all the way up to a profound loss of hearing sensitivity.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common form of hearing loss. Hearing loss that happens due to the natural aging process, known as presbycusis, is a form of sensorineural hearing loss.

Permanent sensorineural hearing loss is caused by the loss of the delicate hair cells within the cochlea of the ear. People are born with a limited number of these cells, and they do not repair themselves when they become damaged.

Causes of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural Hearing Loss can be caused by:

  • The natural aging process.
  • Prolonged and frequent exposure to loud noises. This can include loud machinery, but can also be caused from exposure to loud music.
  • Chemotherapy or medications that have ototoxic side effects.
  • Infectious diseases, such as Lyme, Rubella or Syphilis.
  • An injury to the head.
  • Benign tumors on the auditory nerve.
  • Genetic predisposition – some people are especially prone to hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss impacts the ability to hear quiet sounds, but it also diminishes the clarity of sounds that are heard. Individuals who suffer from this type of hearing loss will often struggle to understand speech.

When a person with sensorineural leaves the condition untreated for a long period of time, their social interactions can become strained and they begin to experience frustrations when communicating with friends and family. Sensorineural hearing loss cannot be cured at this time, but the impact can be lessened with the help of hearing aids.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss occurs when problems with the eardrum, bones, muscles or ligaments in the middle ear prevent sound from passing through to the inner ear. Blockages in the middle or outer ear slow down the vibrations of incoming sound which results in hearing loss.

Causes of Conductive Hearing Loss

Common causes of conductive hearing loss can include:

  • Wax impaction
  • Narrowing of the ear canal
  • Ear infection
  • Foreign body or obstruction
  • Otosclerosis
  • Abnormal growth

Conductive hearing loss can often be managed with medical treatment by an otolaryngologist.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss is any combination of sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss.

Causes of Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss is often caused by trauma to the ear. It may also happen over time, if one type of hearing loss is compounded by another type. For example, someone with age-related hearing loss may experience conductive hearing loss if they have an ear infection.

As the third most common public health issue affecting Americans (behind arthritis and heart disease), hearing loss is an important condition to manage proactively.

If you would like to speak with one of our experienced hearing care professionals, please get in touch. At Audiology Professionals, we are here to help you stay on top of your hearing healthcare. To book an appointment, call (541) 228-9233. Alternatively, click here to contact us online.

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Audiology Professionals

Audiology Professionals