Hearing loss is one of the major issue that creeps up on people all over the world. By the age of 65, one in three Americans suffer from hearing loss. While the symptoms and causes of hearing loss vary from case to case, we have pinpointed some of the main forms of hearing loss so that you may be more aware of how and why it may affect you.
Main Types of Hearing Loss
The main types of hearing loss are divided into three categories: sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is a problem occurring in the auditory nerve or inner ear, which delivers sound to the brain. Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound is not reaching the inner ear, usually due to an obstruction or trauma. Finally, mixed hearing loss means the hearing loss is being caused by a combination of the two.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common form of hearing loss. This is a permanent hearing loss that occurs as a result of damage to either the tiny hair-like cells of the inner ear or the auditory nerve itself, which prevents or weakens the transfer of nerve signals to the brain. These blocked nerve signals carry information about the loudness and clarity of sounds.
If diagnosed at birth, sensorineural hearing loss can be the result of a genetic syndrome or an infection passed from the mother to the child while in the womb. More typically, when sensorineural hearing loss develops later in life, it can be caused by aging, exposure to loud noises, heart disease or diabetes, and autoimmune diseases.
The symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss affect both the loudness and the clarity of sounds. Most people with sensorineural hearing have high-frequency hearing loss, which results in the apparent slurring or mumbling of other’s speech, a constant ringing or buzzing in the ears (tinnitus), and a feeling of being off-balance or dizzy.
There is no medical or surgical method of repairing the tiny hair-like cells of the inner ear or the auditory nerve if they are damaged. However, sensorineural hearing loss may be treated with either hearing aids or cochlear implants, depending on the severity of the loss.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss is a less common form of hearing loss that occurs when there is an obstruction or damage to the outer or middle ear that prevents sound from being transmitted to the inner ear. Conductive hearing loss may be temporary or permanent, depending on the cause.
The causes of conductive hearing loss can differ based on which part of the ear they affect. Some causes for the outer ear are wax impaction, Otitis externa (swimmer’s ear), microtia, and narrowing of the ear canal. Some causes for the middle ear include tympanosclerosis, a thickening of the tympanic membrane, blockages in the Eustachian tube, or abnormal growths or tumors that occur in the middle ear.
Because both the inner ear and auditory nerve are intact, an individual suffering from conductive hearing loss usually has difficulty with the overall loudness of sounds, but not the clarity.
The symptoms for conductive hearing loss include an easier time hearing out of one ear rather than the other, pain in both ears, a foul odor coming from the ear canal, and a feeling that your voice sounds louder or different.
There are multiple medical treatments that can improve the hearing ability for those with conductive hearing loss. Some of these include medical treatments such as the extraction of earwax, antibiotics, or even surgical procedures. However, sometimes the damage may be too severe for these procedures. For this, we recommend using a standard hearing aid or bone-anchored implantable devices.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss is defined as any combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. Mixed hearing loss usually occurs when the ear sustains some sort of trauma. It also can happen gradually over time when one hearing loss is made worse by another: a person with conductive hearing loss may experience hearing loss as they age, or a person with age-related hearing loss might experience more symptoms which translate into mixed hearing loss.
The symptoms of mixed hearing loss are usually a combination of the symptoms of conductive and Sensorineural hearing loss. The treatment of mixed hearing loss will depend on whether the loss is more sensorineural or conductive in nature. If it is mainly caused by a conductive component, surgical procedures and other medical treatments might be more effective. If a greater portion of the loss is sensorineural, hearing aids or implantable devices may be the best option.
If you or someone you know is showing symptoms of hearing loss, it is important to contact a hearing professional immediately. For those that are experiencing hearing loss and are looking for a hearing test in Las Vegas, contact us at the Hearing Associates of Las Vegas to be one step closer to better hearing.