Types of Hearing Loss
There are different types of hearing loss dependent on which part of the hearing pathway is affected. Drs. Jessee, Klein and Streich will try to localize where the problem is, which allows her to classify the type of hearing loss. The classification is important in determining the appropriate treatment.
Do You Have Hearing Loss?
If these symptoms sound familiar, you may have hearing loss:
- People seem to be mumbling
- I have to ask people to repeat what they said
- Others tell me the TV volume is too loud
- I can hear but not understand
- My ears are ringing or buzzing
If you notice one or more of these symptoms, call our office to make an appointment for a complete audiological evaluation (hearing test).
Conductive Hearing Loss
This type of hearing loss is due to any condition that interferes with the transmission of sound through the outer and middle ear to the inner ear. This type of hearing loss is often medically treatable. The interference in sound transmission is usually due to a problem in the:
- External ear canal (such as earwax or debris)
- Mobility of the eardrum (such as fluid or otitis media)
- Three bones in the middle ear (such as otosclerosis)
- Middle ear cavity
- Eustachian tube
Medicine can improve problems with the outer or middle ear in a majority of cases, and when it can’t, hearing aids are very successful.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Hearing aids are most commonly fit on people with sensorineural hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is often referred to as ‘nerve deafness,’ as the damage occurs in the inner ear. The cochlea has approximately 30,000 hair cells. The hair cells in the large end of the cochlea respond to very high pitched sounds and those in the small end (and throughout much of the rest of the cochlea) respond to low pitched sounds. These hair cells and the nerve that connects them to the brain are susceptible to damage from a variety of causes. These are just a few of the causes:
- Presbycusis (hearing loss due to aging)
- Noise exposure
- Ototoxicity (medications that damage the cochlea)
The term “sensory” hearing loss is applied when the damage is in the inner ear. “Neural” hearing loss is the correct term to use when the damage is in the acoustic nerve, anywhere between its fibers at the base of the hair cells and the relay stations in the brain (the auditory nuclei).
Central Hearing Loss
In central hearing loss, the problem lies in the central nervous system, at some point within the brain. Interpreting speech is a complex task. Some people with normal hearing have trouble understanding what is being said. Central auditory processing disorder frequently leads people to think they have hearing loss when their hearing is actually normal. The problem involves a person’s inability to filter out competing auditory signals. Hearing aids are rarely used for the treatment of central hearing loss.
Mixed Hearing Loss
When a person experiences two or more types of hearing impairment, this is called a mixed hearing loss. This term is used when both conductive and sensorineural hearing losses are present on the same ear. Often medical treatment will be sought for the conductive component and hearing aids used for the sensorineural component.
Tinnitus (“TIN-a-tus” or “Tin-EYE-tus”)
What is that ringing in your ears? The American Tinnitus Association defines tinnitus as the perception of sound where no external source is present. The sound can occur in your ears or head. Tinnitus is not homogeneous, meaning it is different from person to person. It can be described as different sounds including ringing, chirping, buzzing, hissing, roaring, pulsating noises. Whether your tinnitus is intermittent or constant it could be a symptom of an underlying condition, therefore you should make an appointment with one of our audiologist.
Causes of Tinnitus
The cause of tinnitus is sometimes hard to determine, that is, the exact physiological place tinnitus is occurring cannot be found. In fact tinnitus is a symptom not a disease so the source of it varies. Some known causes of tinnitus include:
■ Noise exposure
■ Head or neck injuries
■ Medication side effects
■ TMJ disorders
■ Natural aging process
Treatment for Tinnitus
There is no cure for tinnitus at this time. To find the best treatment for your tinnitus our audiologists will first need to determine if there is an underlying condition. If a referral is needed our staff is trained to help you with that process.
There are a variety of treatments for tinnitus and our qualified audiologist will be happy to outline them once an audiological assessment is complete. A few common treatments include:
- Amplification: For individuals with hearing loss hearing aids may provide partial or constant relief from tinnitus.
- Sound Therapy: Using background noise to decrease or mask the tinnitus perception using wearable or non-wearable devices.
- Counseling: One on one counseling or support groups may help to reduce the emotional reaction to tinnitus and can help you learn coping strategies.
- Lifestyle/home adjustments: Reducing possible triggers like caffeine or alcohol and managing your stress are a few adjustments to help with your tinnitus.
Many of the top hearing aid manufacturers have adapted tinnitus sound treatment in their hearing aids. Ask our audiologists how hearing aids can help treat your tinnitus.