To many Americans, hearing loss remains a daily issue that they must deal with. What first starts as a minor inconvenience can rapidly turn into a significant problem, affecting your balance, quality of life, and relationships with loved ones. Healthy hearing is vital to physical and mental health.
There are several ways someone can lose their hearing. Hearing loss can be age-related, hereditary, or caused by environmental factors. There are also different types of hearing loss depending on which part of your hearing is damaged.
The three main types of hearing loss are sensorineural hearing loss, mixed hearing loss, and conductive hearing loss.
Three Main Types of Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the inner ear or the actual hearing nerve becomes damaged. This loss generally occurs when some of the hair cells within the cochlea are damaged.
Conductive hearing loss occurs in the outer or middle ear, where sound waves cannot carry through to the inner ear. The sound may be blocked by earwax or a foreign object located in the ear canal; the middle ear space may be impacted with fluid, infection, or a bone abnormality; or the eardrum may have been injured.
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. A person may have a sensorineural hearing loss and then develop a conductive component also.
Hearing Loss Frequencies
Even further, hearing loss can come in different ranges of severity: some frequencies may be more affected by hearing loss than others. Depending on your hearing loss frequency, your reading will show up in different ways on an audiogram.
There are high-frequency hearing loss, low-frequency hearing loss, and mid-frequency hearing loss in terms of categories for frequency hearing loss, which is also known as cookie bit hearing loss.
But how do these different types of hearing loss show up on an audiogram?
An audiogram is a standardized chart that hearing care professionals use to detail hearing thresholds and other auditory measurements. It is also a baseline for a hearing aid fitting.
With high-frequency hearing loss, you may notice that you have more difficulty understanding female and children’s voices compared to male voices, as well as difficulty hearing other noises like sounds from birds. A high-frequency hearing loss may also be referred to as ski-slope hearing loss because of how it is shaped when entered into an audiogram.
With a low-frequency hearing loss, you may find it challenging to understand male voices, and any music you listen to might have a “tinny” sound. This type of hearing loss may be described as a reverse-slope hearing loss.
A mid-frequency hearing loss is often described as a cookie bite hearing loss. It looks like a cookie with a bite taken out of it when charted on an audiogram.
Cookie Bite Hearing Loss
Cookie bite hearing loss is usually sensorineural and hereditary. It affects the mid-frequency range of hearing. Usually, this doesn’t impact high-frequency hearing and low-frequency hearing. As a result, some sounds may seem louder, while others may seem muted or dull. This leads to an uneven, confusing interpretation of sound in the surrounding environment.
Humans can hear a wide range of frequencies, ranging from low to high. However, if you have cookie-bite hearing loss, you cannot hear the sounds of mid-range frequencies between 500 Hz and 2,000 Hz. Many human speech sounds and music fall into this mid-range, putting a strain on social interactions. Following a conversation, listening to the TV, or listening to music at a standard volume level may be difficult. You may experience reduced clarity.
An audiological assessment helps to determine the diagnosis of a cookie bite hearing loss. If the loss is congenital, meaning something you are born with, this may be first discovered when your child has a hearing test.
If the loss develops over time, it may take longer for individuals to realize their hearing has worsened. This can result in a delay in seeking treatment. In this case, the people who communicate with you the most may suspect your difficulties in hearing before you make the realization.
Common symptoms of cookie bite hearing loss include reduced perception of speech, music, and environmental sounds, raising the TV or radio volume due to reduced hearing of specific speech sounds, and difficulties hearing in social and crowded environments.
What Can Help?
Unfortunately, there are no cures for sensorineural hearing loss. There are no medications or surgeries to restore the hearing to normal. However, there are treatment options available to improve your hearing situation. For instance, changing your communication habits and wearing hearing aids.
Changes to communication habits include visual cues, adapting where you sit at a table or in a classroom and reducing unnecessary background noises. Hearing aids can be programmed and personalized to the individual’s prescription and hearing needs. Incorporating these adaptations can improve quality of life, reconnect individuals to their hearing world, and reduce the adverse effects of hearing loss.
Not all hearing losses are the same. Treatment for your specific condition will depend on the type of hearing loss and your listening needs. If you notice difficulties with communication or feel your hearing ability has changed, have your hearing checked. Receiving routine hearing care and working together with a hearing care professional will help to determine a solution most suitable for you.