Types of Hearing Loss

There are 4 types of hearing loss that can occur.

Conductive hearing loss

This hearing loss occurs when a condition of the middle ear prevents the sound from reaching the inner ear. In other words, the sound is not conducted efficiently through the ear canal, eardrum or tiny bones of the middle ear. This results in a reduction of the loudness of the perceived sound. Conductive losses may result from ear wax blocking the ear canal, fluid in the middle ear, middle ear infection, obstruction in the ear canal, perforations (hole) in the eardrum or disease of the middle ear bones, such as Otosclerosis.

A person with conductive hearing loss may notice their ears seem to be full or plugged. This person may speak softly because they hear their own voice loudly. Crunchy foods such as celery or carrots, seem very loud and this person may have to stop chewing to hear what is being said. All conductive hearing losses should be evaluated by an audiologist and an Ear, Nose and Throat physician to explore possible medical and surgical options.


Sensorineural hearing loss

“Nerve Loss” The most common type of hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when tiny hair cells within the inner ear (the cochlea) or the neural pathways to the hearing center of the brain are damaged.  Some of the most common causes of sensorineural hearing loss are aging (presbycusis), heredity and loud noise exposure. Sensorineural hearing loss can also result from disorders of the inner ear and balance system, such as Meniere’s Disease and growths on the hearing nerve, such as an Acoustic Neuroma.  Coronary artery disease (high blood pressure), Diabetes, some genetic syndromes, and autoimmune disease have also been associated with Sensorineural hearing loss.

People with sensorinerual hearing loss typically report they can hear people speaking, but they can’t understand what they are saying. People with sensorineural hearing loss also complain that “everyone mumbles.”

Although sensorineural hearing loss is usually permanent and there is typically no cure, there are many excellent management options for patients with sensorienural hearing loss, such as hearing aids and cochlear implants.


Mixed hearing loss

This is a combination of conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss


Central hearing loss

Our outer and inner ears allow us to “hear” sound, but the brain allows us to “understand” sound. Various medical issues can cause our processing of speech to breakdown thus causing a central hearing loss or also known as an auditory processing disorder. Persons with a central hearing loss can hear sound but have difficulty with understanding or processing the sound that was heard.

When a central hearing loss is suspected, there are specialized auditory processing tests that are used by an audiologist and physician to determine if a hearing loss is due to central auditory processing issues versus a sensorinueral hearing loss.

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