Hearing loss is grouped in a variety of different ways. The specific section of the auditory system affected determines the categorization. In this brief article we supply an introduction to 5 types – conductive, sensorineural, functional, central and mixed.
Certain types of hearing loss are more treatable than others, and we can guide you through your choices following an initial assessment.
Conductive hearing loss – When sound waves are not completely conducted to the inner ear through the parts of the outer and middle ear, conductive hearing loss occurs. This is rather widespread and could be caused by a buildup of ear wax, an accumulation of moisture in the eustachian tube, which prevents the eardrum from moving properly, a middle ear infection, a perforated eardrum, disease of the bones of the middle ear and other blockages in the ear canal.
Most instances of this type of hearing loss are reversible, presuming there is no permanent damage to the parts of the middle ear, and with treatment, the issue usually clears up fairly quickly. In some cases surgery can help to correct the issue or a hearing aid may be recommended.
Sensorineural hearing loss – Sensorineural hearing loss accounts for over 90 percent of the situations in which a hearing aid is used. It is due to damage in the inner ear or to the acoustic nerve, which prevents sound signals from reaching the brain. Also known as nerve deafness or retrocochlear hearing loss, the damage is generally speaking permanent, though breakthroughs in technology have enabled some formerly untreatable cases to see some improvement.
The most common factors that cause sensorineural hearing loss are aging, prolonged exposure to noise, problems with blood flow to the interior of the ear, fluid disturbance in the inner ear, medications that cause injury to the ear, a handful of diseases, heredity and problems with the auditory nerve.
Hearing aids are satisfactory for most people that have this type of hearing loss, but in more serious cases, a cochlear implant can help restore hearing to those individuals for whom a typical hearing aid is insufficient.
Mixed hearing loss – As suggested by the term, mixed hearing loss is a blend of different types of hearing loss, in this case the combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. Although there are a few other kinds of hearing loss, the combination of these two is most frequent.
Central hearing loss – Central hearing loss arises in situations where an issue in the central nervous system prevents sound signals from being processed and interpreted by the brain. Affected individuals can ostensibly hear just fine, but cannot understand or interpret what is being said. Numerous cases involve a problem with the individual’s capacity to adequately filter competing sounds. For instance, the majority of us can hold a conversation with street traffic in the background, but individuals with this problem have a difficult time doing so.
Functional hearing loss – An infrequent situation, functional hearing loss does not have a physiological explanation. Functional hearing loss is caused by a psychological or emotional problem in which the person’s physical ability to hear is found to be normal, however, they do not seem to be able to hear.