Hearing loss may take a variety of forms and arise as the result of many different causes, and to fully understand them you need to understand the way we hear. Sound enters through the outer ear, which is the portion of the ear on the outside of the head, but also includes the ear canal and the eardrum. The middle ear includes the eardrum as well, but also is comprised of the ossicles (three tiny bones that transform the vibrations of sound into information and transmit them to the inner ear). The inner ear is made up of a snail-shaped organ known as the cochlea, two semicircular canals that help us keep our balance, and a set of acoustic nerves that connect to the brain. The hearing system is a very complex mechanism, and troubles may occur in any area of it that produce hearing loss. Hearing loss is usually categorized into 4 main classifications.
The first class is conductive hearing loss, which is caused by a blockage which prevents sounds from being transmitted through the outer or middle ear. Conductive hearing loss is frequently treatable using medication or with surgery, and if neither of the two is effective, it is treatable using hearing aids.
Damage to the inner ear, including the cochlea, hair cells lining the inner ear, or the acoustic nerves is called sensorineural hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss can usually not be treated using medication or surgery, but its effects can be minimized using hearing aids to allow the person to hear more normally.
Suffering from both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss is called mixed hearing loss and is generally treated with a combination of medication, surgery, and hearing aids.
The fourth and final classification is called central hearing loss, and happens when sound passes through the ear normally, but some form of damage to the inner ear causes it to be scrambled so that it is not properly understood by our brains.
All hearing loss classifications include sub-categories for the degree of hearing loss and are classified as mid-level, moderate, severe, or profound. Hearing loss is typically classified with additional sub-categories including whether the hearing loss occurs in one or both ears (unilateral vs. bilateral), whether the degree of hearing loss is the same in both ears (symmetrical vs. asymmetrical), or whether the hearing loss occurred before or after learning to speak (pre-lingual or post-lingual). Hearing loss can also be categorized as having occurred slowly or gradually (progressive vs. sudden), whether the degree of loss changes and gets better at times or stays the same (fluctuating vs. stable), and whether the loss was present at birth or developed later in life (congenital vs. acquired). The most important thing to bear in mind, however, is that whatever type of hearing loss you may have incurred, our specialists can help you to diagnose and treat it properly.