The Different Types of Hearing Loss

Types of Hearing Loss

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, over 40 million Americans will experience hearing loss this year. Hearing loss is a complicated condition affecting all aspects of a person’s life. Fortunately, our understanding of the causes and proven treatments for hearing loss has improved and grown into a vast knowledge base. A clearer picture of the causes and forms of hearing loss has emerged, and the image is much more complicated than previously thought. Today, hearing loss is classified as either conductive, sensorineural, or a mix of both. This article covers the facts about the different types of hearing loss as they are understood today and what steps you can take to deal with the loss of hearing of any degree.

The Different Types of Hearing Loss

The symptoms and severity of hearing loss can vary dramatically between things like frequency loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), blockage, and nerve damage. However, the truth is hearing loss has two categories, sensorineural and conductive. The complications come from the fact that these categories are not mutually exclusive and can combine to present unique conditions for each patient.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Any condition that physically prevents the sound wave from reaching the inner ear to send the signal to the brain. These factors include compacted earwax, lodged objects, both benign and cancerous tumors, infections, and ruptured eardrums. Treatments for conductive hearing loss focus on the blockage at the root of the issue. These range from simple ear cleaning to full-blown surgery, depending on the severity of the case.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

When there is damage to the minute hairs lining the inner ear, known as stereocilia, sensorineural hearing loss is the result. The function of the stereocilia is to convert sound into electrical signals for use by the brain. These hairs are sensitive to things like high-decibel sounds, poor blood circulation to the inner ear, and ototoxic chemicals and medications. While, right now, there is no cure for sensorineural hearing loss, studies have shown that anything that improves blood flow, like a better diet, exercise, and detoxification, can significantly improve symptoms. Beyond lifestyle changes, the most common treatment options are getting fit for a hearing aid device or cochlear implant.

Mixed Hearing Loss

As the name implies, mixed hearing loss is a combination of problems that causes sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. Studies have shown that a majority of hearing loss cases are mixed. This can complicate diagnosis and make finding effective treatments difficult. Both conditions have to be addressed separately in order to provide relief.

It cannot be understated how important it is to get treatment as soon as possible. If hearing loss goes ignored or untreated, more severe problems can arise. Under-treated or undiagnosed hearing loss has been associated with depression, anxiety, balance issues, and in extreme cases, dementia.

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