Types of hearing loss
There are three main types of hearing loss:
- Conductive hearing loss
- Sensorineural hearing loss
- Mixed hearing loss
Some terms such as “congenital hearing loss” and “noise-induced hearing loss” are sometimes described as types of hearing loss, but they should be considered a cause of hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss refers to an issue in the outer or middle ear which prevents the sound source reaching the inner ear, which results in a reduction of hearing without damages to the inner ear.
This type of hearing loss may be caused by a number of different factors such as the ear canal being occluded with wax, an object being stuck in the canal, fluid building up behind the ear drum, perforation to the ear drum, ear infections and many other issues. Conductive loss can affect hearing in one or both ears.
Usually conductive loss can be treated through medication or surgery and does not lead to a permanent loss. In some cases where the conductive loss cannot be resolved and there is ongoing hearing impairment or discomfort, hearing aids may be required.
Sensorineural hearing loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is a form of hearing loss that comes from damage to the little hair cells within the inner ear or issues with the auditory pathway from the ear to the brain.
Generally sensorineural loss is permanent and is the most common type of hearing loss. Usually medication and surgeries cannot repair sensorineural hearing loss and hearing aids are known as the best treatment for this type of loss.
People can experience sensorineural hearing loss gradually or suddenly. Some common causes can be a result of aging, excessive noise exposure, physical trauma, illnesses, ototoxic medication (drugs that are toxic to the ear) or genetics.
Mixed hearing loss
Mixed hearing loss occurs when there is a hearing loss within the inner ear (Sensorineural hearing loss) as well as a loss occurring within the outer or middle ear (conductive hearing loss).
An example of this is if someone has a permanent hearing loss due to industrial deafness and also has fluid behind the ear drum. When this occurs, the hearing is worse than it would be with just a sensorineural hearing loss. It is common that different forms of treatment are required. It is possible that medication or surgery may be required in conjunction with hearing devices.