If you or someone you love is experiencing hearing loss, one of the first steps in addressing it is understanding it. Hearing loss exists at different levels and different stages. There are three types of hearing loss that you should know about: conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss.
If you think you might have hearing loss and are seeking treatment, contact the specialists at Associated Audiologists and read on for more information.
Conductive hearing loss: causes and treatments
Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves are not being conducted or are interrupted anywhere along the route through the outer ear, eardrum, or middle ear. Usually, those who have conductive hearing loss hear normal sounds at a lower volume, and have a hard time hearing low or faint sounds.
Some common causes of conductive hearing loss include fluid in the middle ear (usually left over from a cold or infection), allergies, impacted earwax, infection in the ear canal, perforated eardrum, or benign tumors.
If conductive hearing loss occurs due to malformation or dysfunction of the middle ear structures, this can possibly be fixed with surgery. Likewise, chronic ear infections, recurring fluid in the middle ear, and tumors will usually necessitate surgery. If surgery doesn’t correct the problem entirely, hearing aid technology will help stabilize the issue.
If conductive hearing loss is due to otosclerosis, a hereditary disorder caused by an overgrowth of bone in the inner ear (preventing sound from getting to the middle ear), surgery is often used to replace the immobile stapes bone with a mobile stapes bone prosthesis or a hearing aid.
Sensorineural hearing loss: causes and treatments
Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) occurs when the inner ear, or cochlea, is damaged. It is alternatively known as nerve-related hearing loss, since the nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain are disrupted. Those with SNHL may be unable to hear faint sounds or even direct conversation. This is the most common type of permanent hearing loss — and usually, SNHL cannot be cured.
Common causes of SNHL include acoustic trauma (exposure to loud noise), head trauma or changes in air pressure (such as the ascent or descent of an airplane), autoimmune inner ear diseases, hereditary hearing loss, and age-related hearing loss (presbycusis).
Fluctuating SNHL can be caused by Meniere’s Disease, where symptoms include hearing loss, tinnitus, and vertigo. Meniere’s Disease can be treated with a combination of medication and hearing aids.
Although SNHL hearing loss is permanent, those who have it will usually find hearing aids — and sometimes cochlear implants — helpful.
Mixed hearing loss: causes and treatments
Mixed hearing loss refers to a combination of conductive and SNHL hearing loss, when there is damage in the outer or middle ear as well as the inner ear or auditory nerve.
Causes of mixed hearing loss vary. Usually, the SNHL hearing loss is present, and conductive hearing loss can come later for an unrelated reason. Rarely, conductive hearing loss can lead to some forms of SNHL hearing loss.
A combination of treatments is used for patients with mixed hearing loss, and the options can depend on the individual’s needs and degree of hearing loss. In most cases, a combination of medical treatment and hearing aid technology is used.
Only an audiologist can determine what kind of hearing loss you or your loved one has and recommend treatment options. Associated Audiologists has doctoral-level professionals who can help diagnose hearing loss. Contact us today to make an appointment, and prevent hearing problems from affecting your everyday lifestyle.