Have you ever seen a t-shirt advertised as “one size fits all” but when you went to try it on, you were discouraged to find that it didn’t fit at all? It’s kind of a bummer, isn’t it? The fact is that there’s pretty much nothing in the world that is really a “one size fits all”. That’s true with t-shirts and it’s also relevant with medical conditions, like hearing loss. There can be a wide variety of reasons why it happens.
So what are the most common types of hearing loss and what causes them? Well, that’s precisely what we intend to find out.
There are different kinds of hearing loss
Everybody’s hearing loss situation will be as unique as they are. Maybe you hear perfectly well at the office, but not in a crowded restaurant. Or maybe you only have difficulty with high or low-pitched sounds. Your hearing loss can take a variety of shapes.
The underlying cause of your hearing loss will dictate how it manifests. Lots of things can go wrong with an organ as complex as the ear.
How your hearing works
It’s helpful to get an idea of how hearing is supposed to work before we can determine what level of hearing loss requires a hearing aid. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Outer ear: This is the portion of the ear that you can see. It’s where you’re initially exposed to a “sound”. The shape of your ear helps funnel those sounds into your middle ear (where they are further processed).
- Middle ear: The eardrum and several tiny bones are what your middle ear is composed of (yes, you have bones in your ear, but they are admittedly very, very tiny).
- Inner ear: This is where your stereocilia are found. These delicate hairs detect vibrations and start translating those vibrations into electrical signals. Your cochlea helps here, also. This electrical energy is then transmitted to your brain.
- Auditory nerve: This nerve directs these electrical signals to the brain.
- Auditory system: From your brain to your outer ear, the “auditory system” includes all of the parts discussed above. The overall hearing process depends on all of these components working in concert with one another. Put simply, the system is interconnected, so any issue in one area will usually affect the performance of the whole system.
Hearing loss types
There are numerous types of hearing loss because there are numerous parts of the ear. The underlying cause of your hearing loss will determine which type of hearing loss you experience.
The common types of hearing loss include:
- Conductive hearing loss: When there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, usually the middle or outer ear, this form of hearing loss occurs. Normally, this blockage is caused by fluid or inflammation (this typically happens, for example, when you have an ear infection). A growth in the ear can occasionally cause conductive hearing loss. When the blockage is eliminated, hearing will usually go back to normal.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: When your ears are damaged by loud noise, the tiny hair cells which detect sound, called stereocilia, are destroyed. Normally, this is a chronic, progressive and permanent form of hearing loss. Typically, individuals are encouraged to wear ear protection to avoid this type of hearing loss. If you’re dealing with sensorineural hearing loss, it can still be treated by devices such as hearing aids.
- Mixed hearing loss: It occasionally happens that someone will experience both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss at the same time. Because the hearing loss is coming from numerous different places, this can sometimes be challenging to manage.
- Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: It’s fairly rare for someone to develop ANSD. It happens when the cochlea doesn’t effectively transmit sounds from your ear to your brain. A device called a cochlear implant is normally used to manage this kind of hearing loss.
Each form of hearing loss requires a different treatment strategy, but the desired results are often the same: improving your hearing ability.
Variations on hearing loss types
And there’s more. Any of these common types of hearing loss can be further categorized (and more specifically). For instance, hearing loss can also be classified as:
- Pre-lingual or post-lingual: Hearing loss is known as pre-lingual when it develops before you learned to talk. Hearing loss is post-lingual when it develops after you learned to talk. This can have ramifications for treatment and adaptation.
- Acquired hearing loss: If you experience hearing loss because of outside causes, such as damage, it’s called “acquired”.
- High frequency vs. low frequency: You might experience more difficulty hearing high or low-frequency sounds. Your hearing loss can then be classified as one or the other.
- Progressive or sudden: You have “progressive” hearing loss if it gradually worsens over time. Hearing loss that erupts or shows up immediately is known as “sudden”.
- Symmetrical or asymmetrical: This indicates whether your hearing loss is the same in both ears or unequal in both ears.
- Fluctuating or stable: If your hearing loss tends to appear and disappear, it may be referred to as fluctuating. If your hearing loss remains at around the same levels, it’s called stable.
- Congenital hearing loss: If you’re born with hearing loss it’s known as “congenital”.
- Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either going through hearing loss in only one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. The point is that each categorization helps us more precisely and effectively manage your symptoms.
Time to get a hearing test
So how can you tell which of these categories pertains to your hearing loss scenario? Unfortunately, hearing loss isn’t really something you can accurately diagnose by yourself. As an example, is your cochlea working properly, how would you know?
But you can get a hearing test to determine exactly what’s going on. Your loss of hearing is sort of like a “check engine” light. We can help you identify what type of hearing loss you have by connecting you to a wide variety of modern technology.
So the best way to figure out what’s going on is to make an appointment with us as soon as you can!