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Shot of a senior man drinking coffee and looking thoughtfully out of a window wondering about hearing loss.

Have you ever purchased one of those “one size fits all” t-shirts only to be dismayed (and surprised) when the shirt does not, in fact, fit as advertised? It’s sort of a bummer, right? There aren’t actually very many “one size fits all” with anything in the real world. That’s true with t-shirts and it’s also relevant with medical conditions, such as hearing loss. This can be accurate for numerous reasons.

So what causes hearing loss? And what is the most common type of hearing loss? Let’s see what we can find out!

There are different types of hearing loss

Everyone’s hearing loss scenario will be as individual as they are. Maybe when you’re in a noisy restaurant you can’t hear that well, but when you’re 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.

How your hearing loss presents, in part, could be determined by what’s causing your symptoms in the first place. Because your ear is a very complex little organ, there are lots of things that can go wrong.

How your hearing works

It’s helpful to get an idea of how hearing is supposed to work before we can understand what degree of hearing loss calls for a hearing aid. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Outer ear: This is the visible portion of the ear. It’s the initial sound receiver. The shape of your ear helps direct those sounds into your middle ear (where they are processed further).
  • Middle ear: The middle ear consists of your eardrum and a few tiny ear bones (yes, you have bones in your ear, but they are admittedly very, very tiny).
  • Inner ear: Your stereocilia are found hear. These tiny hairs detect vibrations and start translating those vibrations into electrical signals. Your cochlea helps here, too. Our brain then receives these electrical signals.
  • Auditory nerve: This nerve is inside of your ear, and it’s responsible for transmitting and sending this electrical energy to your brain.
  • Auditory system: From your brain to your outer ear, the “auditory system” encompasses all of the elements discussed above. The total hearing process depends on all of these parts working in unison with each other. Usually, in other words, the entire system will be affected if any one part has problems.

Hearing loss varieties

Because there are numerous parts of your auditory system, there are (as a result) multiple types of hearing loss. The root cause of your hearing loss will determine which type of hearing loss you experience.

The common types of hearing loss include:

  • Conductive hearing loss: When there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, usually the middle or outer ear, this form of hearing loss happens. Usually, fluid or inflammation is the reason for this blockage (when you have an ear infection, for instance, this typically occurs). A growth in the ear can sometimes cause conductive hearing loss. Typically, with conductive hearing loss, your hearing will go back to normal once the obstruction is gone.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss: When the fragile hairs that detect sound, called stereocilia, are damaged by loud sound they are normally destroyed. Normally, this is a chronic, progressive and irreversible form of hearing loss. Because of this, individuals are usually encouraged to avoid this type of hearing loss by using hearing protection. Even though sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, it can be effectively managed with hearing aids.
  • Mixed hearing loss: It occasionally happens that somebody will experience both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss at the same time. This can often be difficult to treat because the hearing loss is coming from different places.
  • Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: It’s fairly rare for somebody to develop ANSD. When sound isn’t effectively transmitted from your ear to your brain, this kind of hearing loss happens. ANSD can normally be treated with a device known as a cochlear implant.

The desired results are the same even though the treatment solution will differ for each form of hearing loss: improving your hearing ability.

Variations on hearing loss types

And there’s more. We can analyze and categorize these common types of hearing loss even more specifically. Here are a few examples:

  • Acquired hearing loss: Hearing loss that develops as a consequence of outside causes (like damage).
  • Pre-lingual or post-lingual: Hearing loss is known as pre-lingual when it develops before you learned to talk. Hearing loss is post-lingual when it develops after you learned to talk. This will impact the way hearing loss is addressed.
  • Fluctuating or stable: Fluctuating hearing loss describes hearing loss that comes and goes. Stable hearing loss stays at around the same level.
  • Congenital hearing loss: If you’re born with hearing loss it’s known as “congenital”.
  • Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either experiencing hearing loss in just one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
  • Symmetrical or asymmetrical: If your hearing loss is the same in both ears it’s symmetrical and if it isn’t the same in both ears it’s asymmetrical.
  • Progressive or sudden: You have “progressive” hearing loss if it slowly gets worse over time. If your hearing loss arises all at once, it’s known as “sudden”.
  • High frequency vs. low frequency: You may experience more difficulty hearing high or low-frequency sounds. Your hearing loss can then be classified as one or the other.

That may seem like a lot, and 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 categories applies to your hearing loss situation? Unfortunately, hearing loss isn’t really something you can self-diagnose with much accuracy. For instance, is your cochlea working properly, how would you know?

But you can get a hearing exam to determine precisely what’s happening. Your loss of hearing is kind of like a “check engine” light. We can help you figure out what type of hearing loss you’re dealing with by connecting you to a wide variety of modern technology.

So the best way to determine what’s happening is to make an appointment with us today!

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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