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

Have you ever bought one of those “one size fits all” t-shirts only to be dismayed (and shocked) when the shirt doesn’t, in fact, fit as advertised? That’s truly annoying. The reality is that there’s pretty much nothing in the world that is truly a “one size fits all”. That’s true with t-shirts and it’s also true with medical conditions, like hearing loss. This can be true for numerous reasons.

So what causes hearing loss? And what is the most prevalent kind of hearing loss? Let’s find out!

Hearing loss comes in different kinds

Because hearing is such a complex cognitive and physical operation, no two people’s hearing loss will be precisely the same. Maybe you hear perfectly well at the office, but not in a noisy restaurant. Or, perhaps certain frequencies of sound get lost. There are numerous forms that your hearing loss can take.

The root cause of your hearing loss will determine how it manifests. Lots of things can go wrong with an organ as intricate as the ear.

How your hearing works

It’s useful to get an idea of how hearing is supposed to work before we can figure out what degree of hearing loss requires a hearing aid. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Outer ear: This is the visible part of the ear. It’s the initial sound receiver. Sounds are efficiently guided into your middle ear for further processing due to the shape of your outer ear.
  • Middle ear: The eardrum and several tiny bones are what your middle ear is composed of (yes, you have bones in your ear, but they are admittedly very, very tiny).
  • Inner ear: Your stereocilia are found hear. Vibration is detected by these fragile hairs which are then transformed into electrical energy. Your cochlea plays a role in this too. Our brain then receives these electrical signals.
  • Auditory nerve: This nerve directs these electrical signals to the brain.
  • Auditory system: All of the parts listed above, from your brain to your outer ear, are elements of your “auditory system”. The total hearing process depends on all of these elements working in concert with each other. Usually, in other words, the whole system will be affected if any one part has problems.

Types of hearing loss

Because there are numerous parts of your auditory system, there are (as a result) multiple forms of hearing loss. The underlying cause of your hearing loss will determine which kind of hearing loss you develop.

Here are some of the most prevalent causes:

  • Conductive hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss occurs because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, often in the outer or middle ear. Usually, fluid or inflammation is the cause of this blockage (when you have an ear infection, for instance, this typically occurs). Sometimes, conductive hearing loss can be caused by a growth in the ear canal. Usually, with conductive hearing loss, your hearing will go back to normal once the obstruction has been removed.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss: When the delicate hairs that detect sound, called stereocilia, are damaged by loud noise they are normally destroyed. This form of hearing loss is generally chronic, progressive, and irreversible. Usually, individuals are encouraged to wear hearing protection to prevent this type of hearing loss. If you’re dealing with sensorineural hearing loss, it can still be managed by devices such as hearing aids.
  • Mixed hearing loss: It’s also possible to have 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 relatively rare for someone to develop ANSD. It happens when the cochlea does not properly transmit sounds from your ear to your brain. A device known as a cochlear implant is normally used to treat 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 that’s not all! We can break down and categorize these common types of hearing loss even more specifically. Here are some examples:

  • Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to talk, it’s known as pre-lingual. If your hearing loss developed after you learned to talk, it’s called post-lingual. This will impact the way hearing loss is treated.
  • High frequency vs. low frequency: Your hearing loss can be classified as one or the other depending on which frequency range is getting lost.
  • Progressive or sudden: Hearing loss that gradually worsens over time is called “progressive”. If your hearing loss happens all at once, it’s called “sudden”.
  • Symmetrical or asymmetrical: This indicates whether your hearing loss is the same in both ears or unequal in both ears.
  • Acquired hearing loss: If you experience hearing loss as a result of external forces, like damage, it’s known as “acquired”.
  • Congenital hearing loss: Hearing loss you were born with.
  • Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: It’s possible to experience hearing loss in one ear (unilateral), or in both (bilateral).
  • Fluctuating or stable: If your hearing loss tends to come and go, it may be referred to as fluctuating. Stable hearing loss stays at about the same level.

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

A hearing test is in order

So how can you tell which of these categories applies to your hearing loss situation? Unfortunately, hearing loss isn’t really something you can self-diagnose with much accuracy. It will be hard for you to know, for example, whether your cochlea is functioning properly.

But you can get a hearing exam to determine precisely what’s happening. It’s like when you have a check engine light on in your car and you take it to a skilled auto technician. We can connect you to a wide range of machines, and help establish what type of hearing loss you’re dealing with.

So the best way to figure out what’s happening is to schedule an appointment with us today!

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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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