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Shot of a senior man drinking coffee and looking thoughtfully out of a window wondering about hearing loss.

Have you ever seen a t-shirt advertised as “one size fits all” but when you went to try it on, you were discouraged to find that it didn’t fit at all? 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 a fact with t-shirts and it’s also true with medical conditions, like hearing loss. There can be a wide variety of reasons why it occurs.

So what are the most prevalent kinds of hearing loss and what are their causes? Well, that’s exactly what we intend to find out.

Hearing loss comes in different kinds

Everybody’s hearing loss scenario will be as unique as they are. Perhaps when you’re in a noisy restaurant you can’t hear very well, but when you’re at work, you hear just fine. Or, perhaps certain frequencies of sound get lost. There are numerous forms that your hearing loss can take.

How your hearing loss presents, in part, might be dictated by what causes your symptoms to begin with. Lots of things can go wrong with an organ as intricate as the ear.

How your hearing works

It’s useful to get an understanding of how hearing is supposed to work before we can determine what degree of hearing loss requires a hearing aid. Check out this breakdown:

  • Outer ear: This is the visible portion of the ear. It’s where you are initially exposed to a “sound”. The shape of your ear helps direct those sounds into your middle ear (where they are further processed).
  • Middle ear: The eardrum and several tiny bones are what your middle ear is composed of (Yes, there are some tiny little bones in there).
  • Inner ear: This is where your stereocilia are found. These fragile hairs detect vibrations and begin converting those vibrations into electrical signals. Your cochlea helps here, too. Our brain then receives this electrical energy.
  • Auditory nerve: This nerve directs these electrical signals to the brain.
  • Auditory system: From your brain to your outer ear, the “auditory system” includes all of the parts discussed above. The total hearing process depends on all of these parts working in unison with one another. Put simply, the system is interconnected, so any problem in one area will usually affect the performance of the whole system.

Varieties of hearing loss

There are multiple forms of hearing loss because there are multiple parts of the ear. Which type you develop will depend on the root cause.

The prevalent types of hearing loss include:

  • Conductive hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss happens because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, often in the outer or middle ear. Usually, fluid or inflammation is the reason for this blockage (this usually happens, for instance, when you have an ear infection). A growth in the ear can occasionally cause conductive hearing loss. Normally, with conductive hearing loss, your hearing will go back to normal as soon as the blockage has been removed.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss: When the delicate hairs that detect sound, called stereocilia, are damaged by loud noise they are normally destroyed. Usually, this is a chronic, progressive and permanent type of hearing loss. Usually, individuals are encouraged to wear ear protection to avoid this kind of hearing loss. If you have sensorineural hearing loss, it can still be treated by devices like hearing aids.
  • Mixed hearing loss: It’s also possible to experience a combination of sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. This can often be challenging to treat because the hearing loss is coming from different places.
  • Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: It’s fairly rare for somebody to develop ANSD. It occurs when the cochlea does not effectively transmit sounds from your ear to your brain. A device called a cochlear implant is usually used to manage this type of hearing loss.

The desired results are the same even though the treatment option will differ for each form of hearing loss: improving your hearing ability.

Hearing loss kinds have variations

And there’s more. Any of these common types of hearing loss can be categorized further (and more specifically). For example, hearing loss can also be classified as:

  • Acquired hearing loss: If you develop hearing loss due to outside causes, such as damage, it’s known as “acquired”.
  • High frequency vs. low frequency: You may experience more trouble hearing high or low-frequency sounds. Your hearing loss can then be classified as one or the other.
  • Fluctuating or stable: If your hearing loss has a tendency to appear and disappear, it may be referred to as fluctuating. Stable hearing loss remains at about the same level.
  • Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either experiencing hearing loss in only one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
  • Congenital hearing loss: Hearing loss you were born with.
  • Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to speak, it’s called pre-lingual. Hearing loss is post-lingual when it develops after you learned to speak. This can have ramifications for treatment and adaptation.
  • Symmetrical or asymmetrical: If your hearing loss is the same in both ears it’s symmetrical and if it’s not the same in both ears it’s asymmetrical.
  • Progressive or sudden: Hearing loss that slowly worsens over time is called “progressive”. Hearing loss that appears or presents immediately is called “sudden”.

If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. But your hearing loss will be more effectively managed when we’re able to use these categories.

Time to have a hearing exam

So how can you be sure which of these categories pertains to your hearing loss situation? Self-diagnosis of hearing loss isn’t, regrettably, something that is at all accurate. As an example, is your cochlea functioning properly, how would you know?

But that’s what hearing tests are for! Your loss of hearing is sort of like a “check engine” light. We can hook you up to a wide variety of machines, and help establish what type of hearing loss you’re dealing with.

So call us today and make an appointment to figure out what’s happening.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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