Have you ever bought one of those “one size fits all” t-shirts only to be dismayed (and shocked) when the shirt doesn’t, in fact, fit as advertised? That’s really annoying. There aren’t actually very many “one size fits all” with anything in the real world. That’s not only true with clothing, it’s also true with medical conditions such as hearing loss. There can be numerous reasons why it happens.
So what are the most prevalent kinds of hearing loss and what are their causes? Let’s see what we can find out!
There are different forms of hearing loss
Because hearing is such an intricate mental and physical operation, no two people’s hearing loss will be exactly the same. Maybe you hear just fine at the office, but not in a noisy restaurant. Or maybe you only have problems with high or low-pitched sounds. There are numerous forms that your hearing loss can take.
The root cause of your hearing loss will dictate how it manifests. Because your ear is a very complex little organ, there are any number of things that can go wrong.
How does hearing work?
Before you can completely understand how hearing loss works, or what level of hearing loss requires a hearing aid, it’s helpful to consider how things are supposed to work, how your ear is typically supposed to work. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Outer ear: This is the visible portion of the ear. It’s the initial sound receiver. Sounds are efficiently guided into your middle ear for further processing due to the shape of your outer ear.
- Middle ear: The middle ear is composed 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. Vibration is detected by these delicate hairs which are then converted into electrical energy. Your cochlea plays a role in this also. These electrical signals are then transmitted to your brain.
- Auditory nerve: This nerve is inside of your ear, and it’s responsible for transmitting and sending this electrical energy towards your brain.
- Auditory system: From your brain to your outer ear, the “auditory system” includes all of the parts discussed above. It’s important to recognize that all of these parts are constantly working together and in concert with one another. In other words, the system is interconnected, so any issue in one area will usually impact the performance of the whole system.
Hearing loss types
There are numerous forms of hearing loss because there are numerous parts of the ear. Which type you develop will depend on the root cause.
Here are some of the most prevalent causes:
- Conductive hearing loss: This form of hearing loss occurs because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, frequently in the middle or outer ear. normally, fluid or inflammation is the cause of this blockage (when you have an ear infection, for instance, this typically occurs). Sometimes, conductive hearing loss can be the result of a growth in the ear canal. Once the blockage is eliminated, hearing will normally go back to normal.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: When the delicate hairs that detect sound, called stereocilia, are damaged by loud noise they are usually destroyed. Normally, this is a chronic, progressive and irreversible form of hearing loss. Usually, people are encouraged to wear hearing protection to prevent this kind of hearing loss. If you have sensorineural hearing loss, it can still be treated by devices such as hearing aids.
- Mixed hearing loss: It occasionally happens that someone will experience both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss at the same time. This can sometimes be hard to treat because the hearing loss is coming from different places.
- Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: It’s relatively rare for someone to develop ANSD. When sound isn’t effectively transmitted from your ear to your brain, this type of hearing loss happens. A device known as a cochlear implant is usually used to treat this type of hearing loss.
The desired results are the same even though the treatment option will vary for each form of hearing loss: improving your hearing ability.
Variations on hearing loss kinds
And that’s not all! We can analyze and categorize these common types of hearing loss even more specifically. For instance, hearing loss can also be classified as:
- Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: It’s possible to experience hearing loss in one ear (unilateral), or in both (bilateral).
- Progressive or sudden: You have “progressive” hearing loss if it gradually gets worse over time. Hearing loss that appears or presents instantly is called “sudden”.
- Congenital hearing loss: If you’re born with hearing loss it’s known as “congenital”.
- Fluctuating or stable: Fluctuating hearing loss describes hearing loss that appears and disappears. Stable hearing loss remains at about the same level.
- Pre-lingual or post-lingual: Hearing loss is known as pre-lingual when it develops before you learned to talk. If your hearing loss developed after you learned to talk, it’s known as post-lingual. This can have implications for treatment and adaptation.
- Acquired hearing loss: If you experience hearing loss because of outside causes, like damage, it’s known as “acquired”.
- 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.
- High frequency vs. low frequency: Your hearing loss can be categorized as one or the other depending on what frequency range is getting lost.
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.
Time to get a hearing exam
So how can you be sure which of these categories pertains to your hearing loss situation? 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 you can get a hearing exam to determine precisely what’s happening. It’s like when you have a check engine light on in your car and you bring it to a skilled auto technician. We can connect you to a wide range of machines, and help establish what type of hearing loss you have.
So the best way to determine what’s going on is to make an appointment with us as soon as you can!