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Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can be categorized by where or what part of the auditory system is damaged. There are three basic types of hearing loss:

Shouting in Ear (Image Courtesy of http://www.millan.net/anims/giffar/giffar2/gapa.html)

   Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Hearing loss which is caused from damage to the INNER EAR ("cochlea", see picture, right) is called Sensorineural Hearing Loss (nerve deafness). 

Sensorineural hearing loss can be mild, moderate, or severe, including total deafness.

Typically, sound and speech are less clear and loud sounds seem abnormally loud.

IMAGE OF COCHLEA CROSS SECTION courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensorineural_hearing_loss
Two of the main types of Sensorineural Hearing loss are:
Modern Digital Hearing Aids and other assistive listening devices can provide a solution that is a significant benefit and comfort to those suffering from this type of hearing loss.

  Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound is not conducted efficiently through the outer ear canal to the eardrum and the tiny bones, or ossicles, of the middle ear.

Conductive hearing loss usually involves a reduction in sound level, or the ability to hear faint sounds. This type of hearing loss can often be medically or surgically corrected.

IMAGE OF EAR CROSS SECTION courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conductive_hearing_loss

Examples of conditions that may cause a conductive hearing loss include:

  • Conditions associated with middle ear pathology such as fluid in the middle ear from colds, allergies (serous otitis media), poor eustachian tube function, ear infection (otitis media), perforated eardrum, benign tumors
  • Impacted earwax (cerumen)
  • Infection in the ear canal (external otitis)
  • Presence of a foreign body
  • Absence or malformation of the outer ear, ear canal, or middle ear
In most cases, medical treatment helps to eliminate the condition and improve the transmission of sound. Alternatively, patients may also achieve significant benefit from the use of hearing aids.

  Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss at the same time. Both the middle and inner ear are involved.

This hearing disorder can also occur when a person first just has a permanent sensorineural hearing loss and then also develops a conductive hearing loss. (For example, a person who already has a sensorineural loss gets a middle ear infection, and the two types of loss combine to create a greater hearing loss.) Some other instances of mixed hearing loss are the result of the outer and inner ear being malformed, which causes both types of hearing loss.

Surgery, medical treatment, hearing aids and assistive listening devices are all treatment options.