Types of Hearing Loss
If you are experiencing hearing loss, the first determination that your audiologist will want to make is what type of hearing loss is occurring. There are three different types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed. Because each type of hearing loss requires a different approach, it is important to begin with a thorough hearing evaluation.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss occurs when a disease or condition prevents sound from traveling between the middle ear cavity and the inner ear. It can be caused by blockage (often due to impacted earwax) or a disorder which prevents the middle ear from effectively transmitting mechanical energy to the inner ear. Conductive hearing loss results in lowered intensity of sound, which means that sounds seem muffled or quiet. However, the inner ear itself still functions normally, so long as the sounds are loud enough to reach the stapes footplate. Conductive hearing loss treatments often result in complete recovery, and when recovery is only partial, hearing aids can effectively make up for lingering hearing loss.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is the result of dysfunctional nerves in the inner ear or auditory system. While the causes of sensorineural hearing loss are often impossible to determine, it is a permanent and irreversible condition. As with conductive hearing loss, sound intensity is usually reduced, but patients experiencing sensorineural hearing loss also often experience sound distortion. This means that even if words are loud enough to be comprehended, they cannot easily be understood. If your doctor has determined that your hearing loss was not caused by any treatable conditions, hearing aids will be the only course of action.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Some people may experience both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss simultaneously. This is often due to a nerve disorder that is compounded by a dysfunctional middle ear mechanism. Your doctor will determine an individualized solution to this issue, but hearing aids are often effective.