There are a few distinct forms of hearing loss, determined by which portion of the auditory pathway is affected. In this article we offer an overview of five types – conductive, sensorineural, central, functional and mixed. The starting point in developing a therapy plan is to correctly establish the kind of hearing loss.
- Conductive hearing loss – In situations where sound waves aren’t properly conducted to the interior of the ear through the parts of the outer and middle ear, conductive hearing loss arises. This is quite common and can be caused by an accumulation of ear wax, a buildup of fluid in the eustacian tube, which prevents the eardrum from moving properly, a middle ear infection, a perforated eardrum, disease of the tiny bones of the middle ear or blockages in the ear canal.Most cases of conductive hearing loss are reversible, presuming there isn’t any irreversible damage to the parts of the middle ear, and with treatment the trouble usually resolves fairly quickly. For some patients surgery can help to correct the issue or a hearing aid may be fitted.
- Sensorineural hearing loss – Sensorineural hearing loss accounts for more than 90% of the instances in which a hearing aid is used. It is the result of damage in the interior of the ear or to the acoustic nerve, which prevents sound signals from being transmitted to the brain. Also known as nerve deafness or retrocochlear hearing loss, the damage is for the most part permanent, though breakthroughs in technology have allowed some formerly untreatable cases to see some improvement. The most common causes of sensorineural hearing loss are aging, extended exposure to noise, problems with circulation of blood to the inner ear, fluid disturbance in the inner ear, medications that cause damage to the ear, some diseases, heredity and problems with the auditory nerve. Hearing aids are sufficient for most people that have this sort of hearing loss, but in more serious cases, a cochlear implant may help restore hearing to those for whom a typical hearing aid is not enough.
- Central hearing loss – This condition arises in situations where an issue in the central nervous system blocks sound signals from being processed by the brain. Affected individuals can ostensibly hear perfectly well, but can’t decode or decipher what is being said. Many cases involve a problem with the individual’s ability to adequately filter competing sounds. For example, the majority of us can have a conversation while there is traffic noise in the background, but individuals with central hearing loss have a really hard time with this.
- Mixed hearing loss – As the term suggests, mixed hearing loss is a combination of multiple types of hearing loss, in this case the combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. Although there are a couple of other types of hearing loss, the combination of these 2 is most common.
- Functional hearing loss – An infrequent occurrence, functional hearing loss does not have a psysiological explanation. This condition is due to an emotional or psychological condition in which the person‚Äôs physical ability to hear is normal, but they do not seem to be able to hear.