Hearing loss is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It has a variety of
causes, which may include genetics, physical damage to the ear, age and exposure to
excessively loud sound. In this blog post, we’ll explore the different types of hearing loss, their
causes and symptoms, and the different treatment methods that are unique to each type.
There are four main types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, mixed, and auditory
neuropathy spectrum disorder. Each type of hearing loss has its own unique symptoms and in
some cases have unique causes. Each type also may require unique treatment, from medication
to surgery. The desired treatment method will vary by patient, and is something that will be
determined by your doctor after extensive testing. Reach out to our team of specialists at EarPro Audiology to determine your precise condition and begin planning the right treatment options
for your needs.
Conductive Hearing Loss
In conductive hearing loss, sound waves do not have the ability to relay information to the inner ear. It is commonly considered to be the most treatable form of hearing loss, since the purpose of the outer ear is to communicate sound to the inner ear, which is then responsible for parsing and relaying that sound to the brain.
Common causes of conductive hearing loss include:
- Ear infections
- Wax buildup, and
- Otosclerosis (a condition that affects the small bones in the middle ear)
Symptoms of conductive hearing loss include:
- Muffled or distorted sound
- Difficulty hearing in noisy environments, and
- A feeling of pressure or fullness in the ear
Treatment options for conductive hearing loss depend on the underlying cause and the severity of symptoms. In some cases, medications or antibiotics may be prescribed to treat an ear infection. If the hearing loss is caused by a blockage in the ear canal, the blockage may be removed by a healthcare professional. In more severe cases determined through comprehensive hearing tests, surgery may be required to repair damage to the eardrum or middle ear.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the hair cells or nerve fibers in the inner ear. The inner ear is responsible for direct communication with the brain, containing the hearing nerve that then connects to the brain. Though sound is able to enter the inner ear effectively, it is not able to then relay information properly to the brain.
Common causes of sensorineural hearing loss include:
- Exposure to loud noise, and
- Certain medical conditions such as Meniere’s disease
Symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss include:
- Difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds
- Difficulty understanding speech, and
- A ringing or buzzing sound in the ear (tinnitus)
Treatment options for sensorineural hearing loss include hearing aids, cochlear implants, and assistive listening devices. In certain cases where tinnitus is the primary symptom, certain medications may be prescribed by a healthcare professional.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
Common causes of mixed hearing loss are all related to damage to the ear, whether that is the outer, middle or inner ear. It can also include direct damage to the auditory nerve, which communicates directly to the brain.
Symptoms of mixed hearing loss can vary depending on the severity of the damage, but commonly include:
- Difficulty understanding conversation, especially with background noise
- Ringing in ears (tinnitus)
- Sudden loss of hearing
- Issues with balance
Treatment options for mixed hearing loss may include a combination of medication, surgery, and hearing aids. This will vary depending on the unique symptoms and severity of the damage.
Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder
Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder (ANSD) is a unique form of hearing loss in which the brain is unable to comprehend sound once it has entered into the inner ear. It is considered a type of sensorineural hearing loss; more common forms of sensorineural hearing loss are related to malfunction in the outer hair cells of the cochlea, where sounds are not transmitted effectively to the hearing nerve. ANSD is a unique condition in which the outer hairs work properly, but there is a malfunction once the sound has entered the hearing nerve or is in the inner cochlea. ANSD is common among newborns and children, especially children who have been born with additional conditions.
Common causes of ANSD include:
● Lack of oxygen at birth
● Premature birth
Symptoms of ANSD include:
● Difficulty understanding conversation
● Inconsistent hearing levels
● Difficulty parsing different sounds
Treatment options for ANSD include:
● Hearing aids
● Cochlear implant
● Additional hearing devices (FM or DM system)
Hearing loss is a common condition that can significantly negatively impact a person’s quality of life. It’s important to seek treatment if you suspect you may have hearing loss. The first step is to see a healthcare specialist for a hearing test. At EarPro Audiology, our specialists will conduct thorough examination of each patient’s unique abilities and level of symptoms. Upon examination, the discussion can begin on what the best treatment method will be, and by seeking treatment early, those with hearing loss are in the best position to improve their quality of life and maintain their independence. Reach out to our team today to schedule an appointment and begin your treatment journey.