Have you ever seen a t-shirt promoted 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? That’s truly aggravating. The fact is that there’s almost 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, such as hearing loss. This can be accurate for many reasons.
So what are the most common kinds of hearing loss and what are their causes? Well, that’s exactly what we intend to find out.
There are different kinds of hearing loss
Because hearing is such a complex cognitive and physical operation, no two people’s hearing loss will be precisely the same. Maybe when you’re in a crowded restaurant you can’t hear that well, but when you’re at work, you hear just fine. Or, maybe specific frequencies of sound get lost. There are numerous forms that your hearing loss can take.
How your hearing loss presents, in part, might be determined by what’s causing your symptoms in the first place. Because your ear is a very complex little organ, there are lots of things that can go wrong.
How your hearing works
Before you can completely understand how hearing loss works, or what degree of hearing loss calls for a hearing aid, it’s helpful to consider how things are supposed to work, how your ear is generally supposed to work. Check out this breakdown:
- Outer ear: This is the part of the ear that you can see. It’s the initial sound receiver. The shape of your ear helps funnel those sounds into your middle ear (where they are further processed).
- Middle ear: The middle ear consists of your eardrum and a few tiny ear bones (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 begin translating those vibrations into electrical energy. Your cochlea helps here, also. Our brain then receives this electrical energy.
- 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. It’s important to understand that all of these components are constantly working together and in unison with one another. Usually, in other words, the entire system will be impacted if any one part has problems.
Types of hearing loss
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 kind of hearing loss you develop.
Here are some of the most prevalent causes:
- Conductive hearing loss: This type of hearing loss happens because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, often in the middle or outer ear. Normally, fluid or inflammation is the reason for this blockage (this typically happens, for instance, when you have an ear infection). In some cases, conductive hearing loss can be caused by a growth in the ear canal. Typically, with conductive hearing loss, your hearing will return to normal when the obstruction has been removed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: When the tiny hairs that pick up sound, called stereocilia, are damaged by loud noise they are normally destroyed. This type of hearing loss is usually chronic, progressive, and irreversible. Because of this, people are normally encouraged to prevent this type of hearing loss by wearing hearing protection. Even though sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, it can be successfully managed with hearing aids.
- Mixed hearing loss: It occasionally happens that a person will experience both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss simultaneously. This can sometimes be hard to treat because the hearing loss is coming from different places.
- Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: ANSD is a rather rare condition. It occurs when the cochlea does not effectively transmit sounds from your ear to your brain. A device known as a cochlear implant is normally used to manage this kind of hearing loss.
The desired results are the same even though the treatment solution will vary for each type of hearing loss: improving your hearing ability.
Variations on hearing loss kinds
And that’s not all! We can break down and categorize these common forms of hearing loss even more specifically. For example, hearing loss can also be classified as:
- High frequency vs. low frequency: You may experience more difficulty hearing high or low-frequency sounds. Your hearing loss can then be categorized as one or the other.
- Acquired hearing loss: If you experience hearing loss due to external causes, such as damage, it’s called “acquired”.
- Fluctuating or stable: Fluctuating hearing loss refers to hearing loss that comes and goes. Stable hearing loss stays at about the same level.
- Progressive or sudden: Hearing loss that slowly worsens over time is called “progressive”. If your hearing loss occurs all at once, it’s known as “sudden”.
- Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to speak, it’s known as pre-lingual. Hearing loss is post-lingual when it develops after you learned to speak. This can have ramifications for treatment and adaptation.
- Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either going through hearing loss in only one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
- Symmetrical or asymmetrical: If your hearing loss is the same in both ears it’s symmetrical and if it’s not the same in both ears it’s asymmetrical.
- Congenital hearing loss: Hearing loss you were born with.
If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. But your hearing loss will be more successfully managed when we’re able to use these classifications.
A hearing exam is in order
So how do you know what type, and which sub-type, of hearing loss you have? Unfortunately, hearing loss isn’t really something you can self-diagnose with much accuracy. It will be hard for you to determine, for instance, whether your cochlea is functioning properly.
But you can get a hearing test to determine precisely what’s happening. It’s like when you have a check engine light on in your car and you bring it to a skilled auto technician. We can help you figure out what type of hearing loss you have by connecting you to a wide variety of modern technology.
So the best way to determine what’s happening is to schedule an appointment with us today!