Types of Hearing Loss And How To Treat Them

audiologist talks to patient

If you are suffering from hearing loss, the intricacies of your condition are likely to be lost on you. All you know is that you’re having trouble hearing, but different types of hearing loss will be indistinguishable to you, as they are to most people. Don’t worry—that’s why we’re here!

Not all hearing loss is the same. There are a number of different ways that this condition can come about and manifest itself. Understanding the difference between these different types of conditions can provide you with some peace of mind, and enrich your experience with your audiologist.

There are two basic types of hearing loss that we are going to explain today. They are as follows:

  1. Conductive hearing loss

  2. Sensorineural hearing loss

Note: There is a third type of hearing loss, but it’s basically a mix of the first two, so those are where will focus our attention today.

Type #1: Conductive Hearing Loss

What is it?

Your ear has 3 sections to it: the inner ear, the middle ear, and the external ear. Your inner ear is where sound waves are converted to electrical signals that can be conducted by the nerves to your brain. Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves cannot reach your inner ear because something is preventing it. This type of hearing loss often occurs due to a buildup of earwax or other fluids. However, other things such as infections, punctured ear drums, benign tumors, and foreign objects would also fall into the category of conductive hearing loss.

What are the symptoms?

Because conductive hearing loss stems predominantly from simple blockages, it will usually manifest with sounds being quieter than normal, or even muted all together in extreme cases.

How is it treated?

Conductive hearing loss is often treated with simple medication regimes, but in more extreme cases, minor surgery may be required. In any case, conductive hearing loss is nearly always treatable. If you were forced to choose between these 2 types of hearing loss, this is the better option.

Type #2: Sensorineural Hearing Loss

What is it?

As we discussed above, your inner ear is where sound waves are converted to electrical signals that can be conducted by the nerves to your brain. This task of converted sounds waves to electrical impulses is performed by hair cells. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when these hair cells are damaged in some way. Their degradation will occur naturally with age, which is why many senior citizens suffer from hearing loss, but there are a host of things that can happen regardless of age to speed up the process. Topping this list are use of certain medications, tumors, head injuries, certain diseases such as rubella, and regular/prolonged exposure to loud sounds. This last item is more common now than ever, as it is a common side effects of listening to loud music.

What are the symptoms?

Unlike conductive hearing loss, the effect of which is simply that the “volume is turned down,” sensorineural hearing loss can also cause sound distortion. The effect of this is that patients will begin to have trouble understanding speech.

How is it treated?

Presently, there is no way to reverse damage to hair cells in the inner ear, so sensorineural hearing loss is incurable. However, if this is something that you suffer from, you still have options. Hearing aid technology has come a long way in recent years!