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Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery

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Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can develop at any age and may be caused by many different factors. A hearing loss can be categorized in 3 different ways:

  • Sensorineural
  • Conductive
  • Mixed

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

This type of hearing loss occurs when the inner ear or the actual hearing nerve itself becomes damaged. This loss generally occurs when some of the hair cells within the cochlea are damaged.

Sensorineural loss is the most common type of hearing loss. It can be a result of aging, exposure to loud noise, injury, disease, oto-toxic drugs or an inherited condition. This type of hearing loss is typically not medically or surgically treatable, however many people with this type of loss find that hearing aids can be beneficial.

Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

There is another type of sensorineural hearing loss called Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss. This type of hearing loss may occur very suddenly or over the course of a few days. It is imperative to see an otologist immediately. A delay in treating this condition (2 weeks or more after the symptoms first began) will decrease the chance that medications might help improve the hearing loss.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss occurs in the outer or middle ear where sound waves are not able to carry all the way through to the inner ear. Sound may be blocked by earwax or a foreign object located in the ear canal, the middle ear space may be impacted by fluid and infection or a bone abnormality, or the eardrum may have been injured.

In some people, conductive hearing loss may be a temporary loss, which can be reversed through medical or surgical intervention. Conductive hearing loss is most common in children who may have recurrent ear infections or insert foreign objects into the ear canal.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss occurs when there is a combination of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. People may have a sensorineural hearing loss and then develop a conductive component in addition to their original loss. Hearing testing is critical for discovering exactly what type of hearing loss you have, and will help determine the hearing care solution that is right for you. Hearing aids are available in many sizes/styles and technologies as are many alternatives to hearing aids.