Hearing Blog

The Three Types of Hearing Loss

The Three Types of Hearing Loss

There are three main types of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive and mixed. There can be different ways of treating hearing loss based on the underlying cause. Our hearing care professionals will identify your hearing loss type and make recommendations to help you hear better.

One type of hearing loss is SENSORINEURAL. It is a permanent hearing loss that happens when there is damage to the auditory nerve or to the tiny hair-like cells of the inner ear. This weakens or prevents the transfer of nerve signals to the brain. These reduced nerve signals carry information about the loudness and clarity of sounds. People with sensorineural hearing loss often report they can hear people but not understand what they are saying. Common causes of this loss are: aging, autoimmune diseases, blood vessel diseases, noise exposure, side effects of certain medicines, infections like meningitis, measles and mumps. Although there is no medical or surgical method of repairing the tiny hair-like cells or damaged auditory nerve; this type of hearing loss can be treated quite successfully with hearing devices or cochlear implants.

Another type of hearing loss is CONDUCTIVE. This occurs when there is damage or an obstruction to the outer or middle ear that prevents sound from being conducted to the inner ear. This can be temporary or permanent, depending on the cause. Ear infections in children (and adults) are a common cause of conductive hearing loss. Other causes can be: wax impaction, narrowing of the ear canal, infections in the ear canal, otosclerosis (abnormal growth or freezing of a middle ear bone), or growths or tumors that form in the middle ear. Because the sensitive inner ear and auditory nerve are intact, someone suffering from conductive hearing loss primarily has difficulty with the overall loudness of sounds, but not the clarity. Often there are medical or surgical options that can improve the hearing for those with conductive hearing loss, but for those that have a more permanent type (like stenosis/narrowing of the ear canal), bone-conduction hearing devices or assistive listening devices can provide a hearing solution.

And then there is MIXED hearing loss. This can be any combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. Common causes are when the ear sustains some sort of trauma, or it can happen gradually when one type of loss is compounded by another. For example, someone with a long-standing conductive loss might experience normal age related sensorineural loss later in life. Or, an individual with sensorineural loss may have a temporary mixed loss due to wax impaction or middle ear infection or fluid.

Keep in mind, many conductive and mixed hearing losses can be treated medically and practically all hearing loss is treatable with hearing devices, implantable devices and/or assistive listening devices.