Have you ever bought one of those “one size fits all” t-shirts only to be dismayed (and shocked) when the shirt does not, in fact, fit as advertised? That’s truly annoying. The fact is that there’s almost nothing in the world that is truly a “one size fits all”. That’s a fact with t-shirts and it’s also true with medical conditions, such as hearing loss. This can be true for many reasons.
So what are the most common kinds of hearing loss and what are their causes? Let’s find out!
There are different kinds of hearing loss
Because hearing is such an intricate mental and physical process, no two people’s hearing loss will be precisely the same. Maybe when you’re in a crowded restaurant you can’t hear very well, but at work, you hear fine. Or maybe you only have difficulty with high-pitched voices or low-pitched sounds. There are a wide variety of forms that your hearing loss can take.
The underlying cause of your hearing loss will determine how it manifests. Because your ear is a fairly 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 level of hearing loss calls for a hearing aid, it’s helpful to think a bit about how things are supposed to work, how your ear is generally supposed to work. Check out this breakdown:
- Outer ear: This is the visible portion of the ear. It’s where you are first exposed to a “sound”. Sounds are effectively funneled into your middle ear for further processing by the shape of your outer ear.
- Middle ear: The middle ear consists of your eardrum and a few tiny ear bones (Yes, there are some tiny little bones in there).
- Inner ear: Your stereocilia are found hear. Vibration is picked up by these delicate hairs which are then converted into electrical energy. Your cochlea plays a role in this also. These electrical signals are then sent to your brain.
- 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 essential to recognize that all of these elements are constantly working together and in concert with each other. Put simply, the system is interconnected, so any problem in one area will usually impact the performance of the whole system.
Hearing loss types
Because there are multiple parts of your auditory system, there are (as a result) numerous types of hearing loss. The underlying cause of your hearing loss will determine which kind of hearing loss you develop.
The prevalent types of hearing loss include:
- Conductive hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss occurs because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, often in the middle or outer ear. Usually, fluid or inflammation is the reason for this blockage (this typically happens, for example, when you have an ear infection). A growth in the ear can sometimes cause conductive hearing loss. When the obstruction is eliminated, hearing will usually go back to normal.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: When your ears are damaged by loud sound, the delicate hair cells which pick up sound, called stereocilia, are destroyed. Normally, this is a chronic, progressive and permanent type of hearing loss. Usually, people are encouraged to wear ear protection to prevent this kind of hearing loss. Even though sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, it can be effectively treated with hearing aids.
- Mixed hearing loss: It’s also possible to experience a combination of sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. 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. When sound isn’t effectively transmitted from your ear to your brain, this type of hearing loss occurs. A device known as a cochlear implant is normally used to manage this kind of hearing loss.
Each type of hearing loss calls for a different treatment method, but the desired results are often the same: to improve or preserve your ability to hear.
Variations on hearing loss kinds
And that isn’t all! Any of these normal kinds of hearing loss can be categorized further (and with more specificity). Here are some examples:
- 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.
- Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either going through hearing loss in just one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
- Pre-lingual or post-lingual: Hearing loss is called pre-lingual when it develops before you learned to talk. Hearing loss is post-lingual when it develops after you learned to talk. This can have ramifications for treatment and adaptation.
- Fluctuating or stable: If your hearing loss tends to appear and disappear, it might be referred to as fluctuating. If your hearing loss remains at around the same levels, it’s called stable.
- Congenital hearing loss: Hearing loss you were born with.
- Acquired hearing loss: If you experience hearing loss because of external forces, like damage, it’s called “acquired”.
- Progressive or sudden: Hearing loss that slowly worsens over time is called “progressive”. If your hearing loss happens all at once, it’s called “sudden”.
- High frequency vs. low frequency: Your hearing loss can be categorized as one or the other depending on what frequency range is getting lost.
If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. But your hearing loss will be more effectively managed when we’re able to use these classifications.
A hearing test is in order
So how can you tell which of these classifications pertains to your hearing loss scenario? Self-diagnosis of hearing loss isn’t, unfortunately, something that’s at all accurate. As an example, is your cochlea working correctly, how would you know?
But that’s what hearing tests are for! Your loss of hearing is kind of like a “check engine” light. We can help you identify what type of hearing loss you have by connecting you to a wide range of modern technology.
So the best way to figure out what’s happening is to make an appointment with us today!