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

Have you ever seen a t-shirt promoted as “one size fits all” but when you went to try it on, you were discouraged to find that it didn’t fit at all? It’s sort of a bummer, isn’t it? The truth is that there’s virtually nothing in the world that is really a “one size fits all”. That’s not only true with clothing, it’s also true with medical conditions such as hearing loss. There can be many reasons why it happens.

So what’s the cause of hearing loss? And what’s the most prevalent kind of hearing loss? Well, that’s exactly what we intend to explore.

There are different kinds of hearing loss

Everybody’s hearing loss situation will be as individual as they are. Maybe you hear just fine at the office, but not in a crowded restaurant. Or perhaps you only have difficulty with high or low-pitched sounds. Your hearing loss can take a variety of forms.

The root cause of your hearing loss will determine how it manifests. Because your ear is a fairly 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 requires a hearing aid. Check out this breakdown:

  • Outer ear: This is the part of the ear that you can see. It’s the initial sound receiver. Sounds are efficiently funneled into your middle ear for further processing due to the shape of your outer ear.
  • Middle ear: The middle ear is composed of 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. These fragile hairs detect vibrations and start converting those vibrations into electrical energy. Your cochlea helps here, also. This electrical energy is then carried to your brain.
  • Auditory nerve: This nerve is located in your ear, and it’s responsible for channeling and directing this electrical energy to your 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 elements are continually working together and in concert with one another. Put simply, the system is interconnected, so any problem in one area will usually impact the performance of the entire system.

Hearing loss types

Because there are multiple parts of your auditory system, there are (as a result) multiple forms of hearing loss. The underlying cause of your hearing loss will determine which kind of hearing loss you experience.

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 form of hearing loss happens. Usually, fluid or inflammation is the reason for this blockage (this typically happens, for instance, when you have an ear infection). A growth in the ear can sometimes cause conductive hearing loss. Once the blockage is eliminated, hearing will usually return to normal.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss: When your ears are damaged by loud noise, the delicate hair cells which detect sound, called stereocilia, are destroyed. This type of hearing loss is generally chronic, progressive, and permanent. Usually, individuals are encouraged to wear ear protection to prevent this kind of hearing loss. Even though sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, it can be effectively treated with hearing aids.
  • Mixed hearing loss: It’s also possible to experience a combination of sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. Because the hearing loss is coming from numerous different places, this can sometimes be challenging to manage.
  • Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: ANSD is a relatively rare condition. When sound is not properly transmitted from your ear to your brain, this type of hearing loss occurs. ANSD can normally be treated with a device called a cochlear implant.

The desired results are the same even though the treatment option will vary for each type of hearing loss: to improve or preserve your ability to hear.

Hearing loss types have variations

And there’s more. We can analyze and categorize these common types of hearing loss even more specifically. Here are a few examples:

  • Progressive or sudden: Hearing loss that gradually worsens over time is called “progressive”. Hearing loss that appears or shows up immediately is called “sudden”.
  • Fluctuating or stable: If your hearing loss tends to appear and disappear, it might be referred to as fluctuating. Stable hearing loss remains at relatively the same level.
  • High frequency vs. low frequency: You may have more difficulty hearing high or low-frequency sounds. Your hearing loss can then be categorized as one or the other.
  • Congenital hearing loss: If you’re born with hearing loss it’s called “congenital”.
  • Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to speak, it’s called pre-lingual. Hearing loss is post-lingual when it develops after you learned to speak. This will impact the way hearing loss is treated.
  • Acquired hearing loss: If you develop hearing loss because of outside causes, like damage, it’s known as “acquired”.
  • Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either experiencing hearing loss in only one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
  • Symmetrical or asymmetrical: This indicates whether your hearing loss is the same in both ears or unequal in both ears.

If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. The point is that each classification helps us more precisely and effectively address your symptoms.

A hearing exam is in order

So how can you tell which type, and what sub-type, of hearing loss you’re experiencing? Self-diagnosis of hearing loss isn’t, unfortunately, something that’s at all accurate. For instance, is your cochlea functioning correctly, how would you know?

But you can get a hearing test to determine exactly what’s happening. Your loss of hearing is kind of like a “check engine” light. We can help you figure out what type of hearing loss you have by connecting you to a wide variety of modern technology.

So the best way to figure out what’s happening is to schedule an appointment with us today!

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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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