Hearing Health

The 3 Types of Hearing Loss and What You Need to Know About Them

Nearly half a billion people in the world have major hearing loss. This number is expected to grow with the population.

Hearing loss in adults, especially older adults, is quite common. Over the course of a single decade, your chances of hearing loss jump from 33% at the age of 65 to almost 50% at the age of 75.

This number is far lower at other ages, with less than 20% of those under 65 being affected.

As prevalent as hearing loss is, though, it’s not one uniform issue. There are actually three forms of hearing loss and they’re quite different from each other. We’ll talk more about them in the paragraphs below.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

The causes of hearing loss determine its classification. Sensorineural hearing loss, for instance, affects the inner ear and auditory nerve.

The inner ear hair cells become damaged, distorting the sound going from the ear to the brain. This is the most common type of hearing loss, and unfortunately, there’s no treatment for it, only management.

That doesn’t mean that nothing can be done about it, though. Improvement in hearing is possible with the help of a hearing aid or cochlear implant. Keep in mind that sensorineural hearing loss often affects clarity as well, so you might have some trouble figuring out what’s being said, even with a hearing aid.

On a brighter note, the stigma behind wearing hearing aids, especially among the younger crowd, is starting to go away.

Conductive Hearing Loss

The second type of hearing loss is known as conductive hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss affects the ear canal or middle ear space.
Conductive hearing loss is always the result of something being in your ear canal or middle ear space. Any number of things can block off your ear canal, from earwax to infections.

Some people get foreign objects stuck in their ears. You’d be amazed at some of the things doctors have found in people’s ears. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

The good news is that conductive hearing loss can usually be treated, sometimes with medicine, and other times with surgery. In some cases, getting the wax cleaned out of your ears will fix it.

In any case, though, please see a professional. They know how to treat ears without damaging them.

Mixed Hearing Loss

As the name implies, mixed hearing loss is any combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. This can happen for a few different reasons.

There can be a genetic component, but mixed hearing loss usually occurs because of trauma. Certain traumas, such as infections, can cause damage to both the middle and inner ear.

It’s also possible for one type of hearing loss to be compounded by the other. Perhaps you’ve always had sensorineural hearing loss due to a childhood injury, but now there’s something blocking your ear canal as well.

Mixed hearing loss treatment does exist, but it can only do so much. You can treat the conductive issue, but after that all you can do is get a hearing aid.

The Three Types of Hearing Loss

There are a few different types of hearing loss, and they all happen for different reasons. We’ve talked a bit about them in this article, but they’re too complex for a single article to cover everything. It may be best to talk to a doctor if you have additional questions.

At Chicago Hearing Services, we’ll be more than happy to talk to you. Find out more about us, so you know who you’re dealing with.

About Dr. Marie Vetter-Toalson Au.D.

Dr. Marie Vetter-Toalson Au.D. is the owner of Chicago Hearing Services and a Doctor of Audiology dedicated to empowering her patients and the public with greater knowledge and education around hearing health.