Have you ever purchased one of those “one size fits all” t-shirts only to be disappointed (and shocked) when the shirt doesn’t, in fact, fit as advertised? It’s sort of a bummer, right? There aren’t really very many “one size fits all” with anything in the real world. That’s not only true with clothing, it’s also true with medical conditions such as hearing loss. There can be numerous reasons why it occurs.
So what are the most common types of hearing loss and what causes them? Well, that’s precisely what we intend to find out.
There are different kinds of hearing loss
Everyone’s hearing loss scenario will be as unique as they are. Maybe you hear just fine at the office, but not in a noisy restaurant. Or, maybe certain frequencies of sound get lost. Your loss of hearing can take a variety of forms.
How your hearing loss presents, in part, might be dictated by what’s causing your symptoms in the first place. Any number of things can go wrong with an organ as complex as the ear.
How does hearing work?
Before you can completely understand how hearing loss works, or what degree of hearing loss calls for a hearing aid, it’s practical to consider how things are supposed to work, how your ear is usually supposed to work. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Outer ear: This is the visible portion of the ear. It’s the initial sound receiver. The shape of your ear helps direct those sounds into your middle ear (where they are processed further).
- Middle ear: The middle ear is composed of your eardrum and several tiny ear bones (Yes, there are some tiny little bones in there).
- Inner ear: Your stereocilia are found hear. Vibration is detected by these delicate hairs which are then converted into electrical signals. 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 sending this electrical energy towards your brain.
- Auditory system: From your brain to your outer ear, the “auditory system” includes all of the parts discussed above. The complete hearing process depends on all of these parts working in concert with each other. In other words, the system is interconnected, so any issue in one area will typically impact the performance of the entire system.
Hearing loss varieties
There are multiple forms of hearing loss because there are multiple parts of the ear. Which form you experience will depend on the underlying cause.
Here are some of the most prevalent causes:
- Conductive hearing loss: When there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, usually the middle or outer ear, this type of hearing loss occurs. Usually, this blockage is caused by fluid or inflammation (when you have an ear infection, for instance, this usually occurs). A growth in the ear can occasionally cause conductive hearing loss. Once the blockage is removed, hearing will usually go back to normal.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: When your ears are damaged by loud sound, the fragile hair cells which pick up sound, called stereocilia, are destroyed. This form of hearing loss is typically chronic, progressive, and permanent. Because of this, people are usually encouraged to avoid this kind of hearing loss by wearing ear protection. Even though sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, it can be effectively treated with hearing aids.
- Mixed hearing loss: It sometimes happens that somebody will experience both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss at the same time. Because the hearing loss is coming from several different places, this can sometimes be difficult to manage.
- Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: It’s relatively rare for someone to develop ANSD. It occurs when the cochlea does not effectively transmit sounds from your ear to your brain. ANSD can normally be managed with a device known as a cochlear implant.
The desired results are the same even though the treatment solution will differ for each form of hearing loss: to improve or preserve your ability to hear.
Hearing loss types have variations
And there’s more. We can break down and categorize these common types of hearing loss even more specifically. Here are some examples:
- High frequency vs. low frequency: Your hearing loss can be categorized as one or the other depending on what frequency range is getting lost.
- Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to speak, it’s known as pre-lingual. If your hearing loss developed after you learned to talk, it’s known as post-lingual. This will affect the way hearing loss is managed.
- Symmetrical or asymmetrical: This indicates whether your hearing loss is equal in both ears or unequal in both ears.
- Acquired hearing loss: Hearing loss that develops as a consequence of outside causes (such as damage).
- Progressive or sudden: You have “progressive” hearing loss if it slowly worsens over time. Hearing loss that erupts or shows up instantly is called “sudden”.
- Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either going through hearing loss in just one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
- Congenital hearing loss: If you’re born with hearing loss it’s known as “congenital”.
- Fluctuating or stable: If your hearing loss tends to appear and disappear, it might be referred to as fluctuating. Stable hearing loss stays at about the same level.
That might seem like a lot, and it is. The point is that each classification helps us more accurately and effectively manage your symptoms.
A hearing exam is in order
So how can you tell which of these categories pertains to your hearing loss scenario? Self-diagnosis of hearing loss isn’t, unfortunately, something that’s at all accurate. For instance, is your cochlea working correctly, how would you know?
But you can get a hearing test to find out precisely what’s going on. Your loss of hearing is kind of like a “check engine” light. We can help you determine what type of hearing loss you have by connecting you to a wide variety of modern technology.
So contact us as soon as you can and make an appointment to find out what’s going on.