Approximately 48 million Americans are living with some degree of hearing loss according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. While that number is huge, it’s important to remember that each person’s hearing loss is individual. A qualified hearing health professional is needed to determine the type of hearing loss and the best treatment option.
It is true that each person has their own hearing loss experience, but here are three basic types of hearing loss and each affects a different part of the auditory system.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
This is the most common kind of hearing loss and is the result of damage to the inner ear or the hearing nerve. Most often, this type of hearing loss is caused by damage to the hair cells of the inner ear. Hair cells detect movement and are sensory receptors responsible for transmitting information to the brain. Damage to hair cells or the inner ear nerves is permanent and cannot be reversed. Some known causes of sensorineural hearing loss are aging, inner ear malformation, head trauma, or illness and the accepted treatment is hearing aids. Surgical or medical interventions are not normally successful with this type of hearing loss.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss is a sudden, unexplained deafness that occurs either at once or over several days. It normally affects only one ear. Anyone who experiences this should seek medical help immediately. It may be something as simple as earwax clogging the ear canal. However, there are more serious causes of this type of hearing loss that need to be ruled out.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss occurs in the outer or middle ear, thus prohibiting sound waves from reaching the inner ear. People experiencing this type of hearing loss will have difficulty hearing soft sound. Causes include physical blockages, like ear wax or a foreign object, fluid in the inner ear, allergies or a perforated ear drum. Conductive hearing loss is common in children due to recurrent ear infections or objects inserted into the ear canal. Treatment options may include surgery, medicine or hearing aids.
Mixed Hearing Loss
It’s possible to have both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss but they will most often develop independently. Mixed hearing loss affects the inner ear and either the outer or middle ear, or both. Therefore, a larger part of the auditory process is affected with potential difficulties in transmitting sound data to the ear and processing the sound data once it reaches the inner ear. Since mixed hearing loss is a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss, the treatment involves addressing the components of each. Treatment options may include surgery, medicine, or hearing aids.
Determining the type of hearing loss is the critical first step to receiving the correct treatment to restore your hearing health. A hearing testing is the best method for finding out which type of hearing loss you have and should be administered by a qualified hearing health care provider. Schedule a consultation with us so we can customize a treatment plan just for you.