Hearing problems are classified in a variety of ways. The specific part of the auditory pathway affected is what determines the categorization. In this article we provide a breakdown of five different types – conductive, sensorineural, central, mixed and functional. Some forms of hearing impairment are more easily treated than others, and a hearing healthcare specialist can show you your choices after an assessment.

Sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss is responsible for over 90 percent of the instances in which a hearing aid is used. Sensorineural hearing loss is the result of damage in the inner ear or damage to the acoustic nerve, which prevents sound signals from being transmitted to the brain. Also known as nerve deafness or retrocochlear hearing loss, the impairment is for the most part irreversible, although advances in modern technology have made it possible for some previously untreatable cases to see some improvement.

The most frequent reasons behind sensorineural hearing loss are aging, prolonged exposure to noise, problems with blood circulation to the inner ear, fluid disturbance in the inner ear, medicines that cause damage to the ear, a small number of diseases, heredity and issues with the auditory nerve.

Hearing aids are suitable for the majority of people who have sensorineural hearing loss, but in more severe cases, a cochlear implant can help restore hearing to those for whom a standard hearing aid is not enough.

Conductive hearing loss

In situations where sound waves aren’t sufficiently conducted to the interior of the ear through the outer and middle ear, conductive hearing loss arises. This is rather widespread and can be caused by an accumulation of ear wax, an accumulation of fluid in the eustacian tube, which keeps 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 cases of conductive hearing loss are reversible, presuming there isn’t any permanent damage to the parts of the middle ear, and with proper treatment the issue usually resolves in a short amount of time. In some cases surgery can assist in correcting the issue or a hearing aid may be recommended.

Mixed hearing loss

As suggested by the term, mixed hearing loss is a blend of multiple types of hearing loss – sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. Though there are a few other kinds of hearing loss, the combination of these two is most common.

Functional hearing loss

An infrequent situation, functional hearing loss is not physical. This condition is caused by an emotional or psychological condition in which the person’s physical ability to hear is found to be normal, but they are not able to hear.

Central hearing loss

Central hearing loss arises when an issue in the central nervous system keeps sound signals from being processed by the brain. Affected individuals can seemingly hear just fine, but can’t understand or decipher what the speaker is saying. Numerous cases involve a problem with the person’s capacity to adequately filter rivaling sounds. For instance, the majority of us can have a conversation while there is traffic noise in the background, but people with central hearing loss have a difficult time doing so.