Have you ever seen a t-shirt promoted as “one size fits all” but when you went to try it on, you were discouraged to find that it didn’t fit at all? That’s truly annoying. There aren’t really very many “one size fits all” with anything in the real world. That’s true with t-shirts and it’s also true with medical conditions, such as hearing loss. There can be many reasons why it occurs.
So what are the most prevalent kinds of hearing loss and what causes them? Well, that’s precisely what we intend to explore.
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 crowded restaurant. Or perhaps you only have difficulty with high or low-pitched sounds. Your loss of hearing can take a variety of forms.
How your hearing loss shows up, in part, might be determined by what causes your symptoms to begin with. Any number of things can go wrong with an organ as intricate as the ear.
How does hearing work?
It’s useful to get an idea of how hearing is supposed to work before we can figure out what level of hearing loss requires a hearing aid. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Outer ear: This is the part of the ear that you can see. It’s the initial sound receiver. The shape of your ear helps direct those sounds into your middle ear (where they are further processed).
- Middle ear: The eardrum and a few tiny bones are what your middle ear is composed of (Yes, there are some tiny little bones in there).
- Inner ear: Your stereocilia are found hear. Vibration is picked up by these delicate hairs which are then converted into electrical signals. Your cochlea helps here, also. This electrical energy is then sent to your brain.
- Auditory nerve: This nerve sends these electrical signals to the brain.
- Auditory system: All of the parts listed above, from your brain to your outer ear, are components of your “auditory system”. It’s important to understand that all of these components are continually working together and in unison with each other. Put simply, the system is interconnected, so any issue in one area will usually impact the performance of the entire system.
Varieties of hearing loss
There are multiple types of hearing loss because there are multiple parts of the ear. The underlying cause of your hearing loss will determine which kind of hearing loss you experience.
The prevalent types of hearing loss include:
- Conductive hearing loss: When there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, often the middle or outer ear, this form of hearing loss occurs. Usually, 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. Normally, with conductive hearing loss, your hearing will go back to normal once the obstruction is gone.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: When the fragile hairs that pick up sound, called stereocilia, are damaged by loud sound they are normally destroyed. This type of hearing loss is usually chronic, progressive, and permanent. Typically, individuals are encouraged to wear ear protection to prevent this kind of hearing loss. Even though sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, it can be successfully managed with hearing aids.
- Mixed hearing loss: It’s also possible to have a combination of sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. Because the hearing loss is coming from numerous different places, this can sometimes be difficult to manage.
- Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: ANSD is a relatively rare condition. When sound isn’t properly transmitted from your ear to your brain, this kind of hearing loss happens. ANSD can normally be treated with a device called a cochlear implant.
The desired results are the same even though the treatment option will vary for each type of hearing loss: improving your hearing ability.
Variations on hearing loss types
And that isn’t all! We can break down and categorize these common forms of hearing loss even more specifically. For example, hearing loss can also be classified as:
- Acquired hearing loss: Hearing loss that happens due to outside causes (like damage).
- Progressive or sudden: You have “progressive” hearing loss if it slowly gets worse over time. If your hearing loss happens all at once, it’s known as “sudden”.
- Fluctuating or stable: If your hearing loss has a tendency to appear and disappear, it might be referred to as fluctuating. If your hearing loss remains at roughly the same levels, it’s called stable.
- Symmetrical or asymmetrical: This tells you whether your hearing loss is the same in both ears or unequal in both ears.
- High frequency vs. low frequency: Your hearing loss can be classified as one or the other depending on which frequency range is getting lost.
- 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 going through hearing loss in just one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
- Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to talk, it’s known as pre-lingual. If your hearing loss developed after you learned to speak, it’s known as post-lingual. This can have implications for treatment and adaptation.
That might seem like a lot, and it is. But your hearing loss will be more successfully treated when we’re able to use these categories.
Time to get a hearing exam
So how can you be sure which of these categories applies to your hearing loss situation? Unfortunately, hearing loss isn’t really something you can accurately diagnose by yourself. It will be difficult for you to know, for example, whether your cochlea is working correctly.
But you can get a hearing exam to determine precisely what’s happening. Your loss of hearing is sort of like a “check engine” light. We can help you figure out what type of hearing loss you have by connecting you to a wide variety of modern technology.
So the best way to understand what’s happening is to make an appointment with us as soon as you can!