There are three basic types of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive, or mixed. The type of hearing loss will determine the appropriate treatment.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of permanent hearing loss. It occurs when there is damage to the inner ear, or when there is damage to the nerve pathway connecting the inner ear to the brain.
With this type of hearing loss, soft sounds are difficult to hear and loud sounds may sound muffled or unclear.
Possible causes of sensorineural hearing loss:
- Exposure to loud sounds
- Genetics — sometimes hearing loss can run in families
- Head trauma
- Certain viruses or diseases
In most cases, sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible and cannot be fixed by surgery or medications. The most common treatment is hearing aids.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss occurs when sounds cannot get through the outer and middle ear. This can be caused by either damage or obstruction. With this type of hearing loss, people have difficulties hearing soft sounds and loud sounds may seem muffled. It can be difficult to differentiate from sensorineural hearing loss without the assistance of a medical professional.
Possible causes of conductive hearing loss:
- Fluid in the middle ear
- Ear infection
- Excessive earwax
- Swimmer’s ear
- An object stuck in the ear canal
- Perforated eardrum
- Benign tumor
Medication or surgery are often effective treatments for conductive hearing loss.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss is when a patient has both conductive and sensorineural hearing losses. Ear trauma can be a cause of mixed hearing loss. It can also occur gradually over time. For example, a patient who has had conductive hearing loss for a long time, can also experience gradual sensorineural hearing loss as they age.
Another example would be a person who has permanent sensorineural hearing loss that gets an ear infection, or experiences a buildup of earwax.
Treatment for mixed hearing loss will vary depending on whether the hearing loss is more conductive or sensorineural. Typically, conductive causes of hearing loss are treated first.
If you are experiencing hearing loss, you should schedule an appointment with a medical professional in order to determine the type of hearing loss. All types of hearing loss require an accurate diagnosis for appropriate treatment.