Our patients and their families often ask us: what are some of the different types of hearing loss and how are they going to affect my loved one? This is an important question as the answers regularly provide comfort by showcasing a path for recovery or an improvement in their hearing.
We’re going to focus on the 3 main types of hearing loss in this article, as well as what can cause them and how each of them is treated. Every patient we see is unique, though. Some treatments might work for some but not for others.
If you are experiencing any kind of hearing loss, you should speak to your GP or an audiologist as quickly as you can. Book a consultation with one of our expert audiologists today by calling 01277 264938 or emailing us on email@example.com.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Your ear is made up of 3 parts: outer, middle, and inner. Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound can’t pass through the middle or outer part of the ear. An earwax build-up is the most common cause of this type of hearing loss.
Louder sounds can seem distorted or quiet and softer sounds are harder to hear or may be missed altogether. You could also experience a feeling of discomfort or pain within your ear. Generally, this is a symptom of what’s causing the hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss is generally caused by:
- Earwax build-up in the ear
- An ear infection within the middle ear or canal
- Fluid within the ear, often caused by a cold or allergies
- A hole in the eardrum
- A small object stuck in the outer ear
- A variety of genetic differences, such as irregular eustachian tubes – these tubes connect the middle part of the ear to the nose which lets fluid drain – or a kind of birth defect within the middle or outer ear
The good news is, this type of hearing loss is treatable. Medication regularly solves the problem but, very rarely, surgery can be needed.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
This is the most common form of hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) occurs when the inner ear is damaged. Damage to the nerves around your ear can also lead to SNHL. As with other kinds of hearing loss, SNHL causes loud noises to sound muffled or unclear and makes soft noises difficult to make out.
SNHL is generally caused by:
- A multitude of different illnesses
- Old age
- Head or brain trauma, such as receiving a sharp blow to the head
- Hearing loss associated with genetics
- Prolonged exposure to very loud noises or explosions
- A variety of medication/drugs that can affect the ear
Unlike conductive hearing loss, SNHL is often untreatable. Typically, the best way to improve a patient’s hearing when suffering from SNHL is to use hearing aids. There are certain cases of SNHL that are treatable/curable through certain types of medication or surgery, though.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss is much rarer than the other 2 we’ve discussed and occurs when both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss are present at the same time. Damage has to be present in the outer, middle, and inner ear for this to happen.
The causes of mixed hearing loss are difficult to define. It’s generally caused by a mixture of SNHL and conductive problems. A simple example would be someone suffering from an acute earwax blockage whilst also having hearing loss problems caused by old age. These two problems together would lead to a case of mixed hearing loss, which is generally considered worse than only have 1 of the problems.
It’s difficult to discuss treatments for mixed hearing loss, as the number of causes can be so numerous. The best way to approach it is to treat each problem separately. The conductive part – damage to the middle or outer ear – can often be treated, whilst the SNHL problem would often require use of a hearing aid.
If you or a family member are experiencing hearing loss, it’s important that you speak to an audiologist. Our team are always here to help! Book a consultation today by calling 01277 264938 or emailing us on firstname.lastname@example.org.