Hearing loss comes in all shapes and sizes. There is a variety of situations, as well as different causes, symptoms, and treatments. If you or a family member is struggling with a hearing problem, whether it’s from muffled sounds or pain in the ear, it’s important to pinpoint what is causing it and how to fix it. Before the problem can be addressed, however, knowing what kind of hearing loss you have is vital. Everything depends on that.
It can be challenging to understand all of this on your own. That’s why we’ve put together this information about hearing loss for you to use.
Types of Hearing Loss
The majority of medical professionals say that there are three different types of hearing loss. Here we have a description of each one with their causes, symptoms, and treatments.
1. Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL)
SNHL is also known as permanent hearing loss and is the most common type people have. With sensorineural hearing loss, there has been damage to the tiny cells in the auditory nerve or the inner ear. When working correctly, the nerves transmit information to the brain about how loud or clear a sound is, but if these nerves are damaged, those signals to the brain are weak.
- Causes: Damage to the inner ear occurs as a genetic issue or from an infection like herpes or rubella that a baby receives from the mother during its time in the womb. If a person gets sensorineural damage later in life, the harm likely comes from any number of factors including aging (presbycusis), injuries, cancer, blood vessel problems, autoimmune diseases, or loud noises. Certain types of medications or chemicals can also bring about SNHL.
- Hearing a ringing or a buzzing sound often
- Voices sound slurred or mumbled, especially women and children’s voices
- Difficulty tracking a conversation with two or more people speaking together
- Feeling dizzy or off balance
- Having a hard time hearing certain consonants
- Treatment: Unfortunately, the tiny hairlike cells within your inner ear cannot be repaired by surgery or medical treatment. The damage is irreversible. There is hope though. That’s where hearing aids come into play. Hearing aids, as well as cochlear implants, truly can benefit those with this type of hearing loss and can reduce the hearing issues that have occurred.
2. Conductive Hearing Loss
This second type of hearing loss develops when there is an issue with the outer or the middle ear, which makes the transfer of sound to the inner ear problematic. When the inner ear does not receive the correct tone, then the nerves within the inner ear cannot transmit an accurate sound to the brain. Less common than sensorineural, the conductive type of hearing loss can be permanent or temporary and is more common in children and indigenous people.
- Causes: When we’re talking about the outer or middle ear having difficulties with hearing, it means that something is inhibiting the sound from proceeding to the inner ear. This inhibition can usually be corrected medically once the cause is determined. Causes can be anything from a ruptured eardrum to fluid build-up from a cold or allergies to a plethora of earwax in the ear. Sometimes it’s even an object in the ear that shouldn’t be there. The most concerning cases are tumors, trauma, or malformation.
- One ear seems better at hearing than another
- You detect an unpleasant smell coming from an ear
- An irritating feeling in one or both ears
- Treatment: Medical treatments, such as the use of antibiotics when appropriate, can resolve many of the issues that this kind of hearing loss causes. If medical intervention does not restore the patient’s hearing, it may be corrected through the use of a hearing aid. Other issues with your ear, such as exostoses or ossicular chain, cannot be corrected medically, but hearing aids can be an excellent fix for these situations as well.
3. Mixed Hearing Loss
As you might have guessed, this kind of hearing loss is a combination of the two listed above. An individual would have the sensorineural type permanently in the inner ear, and also experience conductive hearing loss in the outer or middle ear. This type of damage could be permanent or temporary. Bilateral hearing loss often is placed in this category because it impacts a combination of outer, middle, and inner ear hearing processes.
- Cause: Anything that can lead to the first two types of hearing loss can also cause a mixed loss. For example, if you’re experiencing presbycusis due to your age, this would be an SNHL problem. But if this is combined with a ruptured eardrum or buildup of earwax, then you would likely be diagnosed with a mixed hearing loss.
- Symptoms: Any combination of the above symptoms will be present.
- Treatment: Before mixed hearing loss can be treated, it’s essential to find out whether your issues lean more towards sensorineural or more towards conductive. If your hearing loss is mostly conductive, then it can often be fixed medically or surgically. However, if it’s sensorineural damage, then perhaps having a hearing aid will be the best fit for you.
There’s a lot to know about the various types of hearing loss, what habits and events can cause hearing loss, and how to treat it. Perhaps you’ve been struggling with an irritating feeling in an ear or feeling like your ears will never “pop.” Before stumbling upon this article, you might have blamed it on a common cold or allergies or just explained it as something you’ve always dealt with. You don’t have to continue to struggle with it.
Now that you have this valuable information, put it to use. Contact us and let us know what symptoms you are having. We’ll be able to examine and explore what is going on with your ears so we can assist you in finding the best hearing aid.