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Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a common health condition affecting millions of people worldwide. It can be caused by various factors, including genetics, aging, exposure to loud noise, infections, and certain medications. Hearing loss is a common condition that affects people of all ages. It is estimated that approximately 466 million people worldwide have some degree of hearing loss, and this number is expected to rise to over 900 million by 2050.

Introduction

Old man talking to friend with hearing loss sitting on sofa at home.

Understanding the types of hearing loss is crucial for anyone concerned about their hearing health, as it can help individuals identify the cause of their hearing loss and find the proper treatment or accommodations. In this article, we will explain the three main types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed hearing loss.

We will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for hearing loss, as well as some of the latest advances in hearing technology that can help individuals improve their hearing abilities and overall quality of life.

Types Of Hearing Loss

Senior man hearing loss , Hard of hearing

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve that transmits signals from the inner ear to the brain causes Sensorineural hearing loss. It is the most common type, accounting for approximately 90% of cases. It is typically associated with aging and exposure to loud noise. Genetic factors, infections, certain medications are other factors. Sensorineural Hearing Loss is the most common type of hearing loss.

Mixed Hearing Loss

A combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, typically involving damage to the outer or middle ear and the inner ear or auditory nerve, results in Mixed hearing loss. Mixed hearing loss is less common than a sensorineural hearing loss but more common than conductive hearing loss. It can occur at any age and is often associated with a combination of factors, such as genetic predisposition and exposure to loud noise.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Problems in the outer or middle ear cause conductive hearing loss preventing sound from being conducted properly to the inner ear. It can occur at any age but is more common in children and young adults. You can reaad more about conductive hearling loss here

Rarer Types Of Hearing Loss

  • Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: Hearing loss occurs when sound normally enters the ear, but because of damage to the inner ear or the hearing nerve, the sound isn’t organized in a way the brain can understand. For more information click here
  • Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss: Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss: may occur very suddenly or over a few days. It is imperative to see an otologist (a doctor specializing in diseases of the ear) immediately. A delay in treating this condition (two or more weeks after the symptoms begin) will decrease the chance that medications might help improve the problem.

Degrees Of Hearing Loss

londe woman with hearing loss sits at laptop outdoors.

The degree of hearing loss refers to the severity of a person’s hearing impairment. It is typically categorized based on the extent of their hearing loss in decibels (dB) and their ability to hear and understand speech. The commonly used degrees of hearing loss are:

  • Mild hearing loss: A person with mild hearing loss may have difficulty hearing soft or distant speech but can typically hear loud and clear speech.
  • Moderate hearing loss: A person with moderate hearing loss may have difficulty hearing and understanding speech, especially in noisy environments.
  • Severe hearing loss: A person with severe hearing loss will likely have difficulty hearing most speech and may rely heavily on lip reading and other visual cues.
  • Profound hearing loss: A person with profound hearing loss may only be able to detect very loud sounds and may rely primarily on sign language and other visual communication methods.

These categories are general, and the extent and degree of hearing loss can vary for each individual. It’s essential to consult an audiologist or hearing specialist for a comprehensive hearing assessment, which will provide a detailed understanding of an individual’s hearing abilities and any necessary interventions or accommodations.

Descriptions Of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can also be described as:
  • Unilateral or Bilateral Hearing loss is in one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
  • Pre-lingual or Post-lingual The hearing loss happened before a person learned to talk (pre-lingual) or after a person learned to speak (post-lingual).
  • Symmetrical or Asymmetrical Hearing loss is the same in both ears (symmetrical) or is different in each ear (asymmetrical).
  • Progressive or Sudden Hearing loss worsens over time (progressive) or happens quickly (sudden).
  • Fluctuating or Stable Hearing loss gets either better or worse over time (fluctuating) or stays the same over time (stable).
  • Congenital or Acquired/Delayed Onset Hearing loss occurs at birth (congenital) or occurs sometime later in life (acquired or delayed onset).

Symptoms of Hearing Loss

Senior man with hearing loss smiling confident using hearing aid at home

The symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss can vary depending on the severity of the damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve. Some common symptoms include:

  1. Difficulty hearing in loud environments: One of the most common symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss is difficulty hearing in noisy environments, such as restaurants or crowded rooms. This is because the damaged inner ear or auditory nerve struggles to differentiate between sounds and may become overwhelmed by background noise.
  2. Trouble understanding speech, particularly in background noise: Another common symptom of sensorineural hearing loss is difficulty understanding speech, particularly in noisy environments. This is because the damaged inner ear or auditory nerve struggles to pick up the subtle differences in speech sounds that allow us to differentiate between words and phrases.
  3. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears: Tinnitus is a common symptom of sensorineural hearing loss. It is a ringing, buzzing, or humming sound that is heard without any external noise. Tinnitus can be caused by damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve. It can be a source of significant discomfort and anxiety.
  4. Dizziness or vertigo: Some people with sensorineural hearing loss may experience dizziness or vertigo. This can be caused by damage to the vestibular system, which is responsible for balance and spatial orientation.
  5. Loss of balance: In some cases, sensorineural hearing loss can lead to a loss of balance or difficulty walking. This can be caused by damage to the vestibular system, which is closely linked to the inner ear and responsible for maintaining balance and spatial orientation.

Prevention Of Hearing Loss

There are several steps that can be taken to prevent hearing loss, including:
  • Avoiding exposure to loud noise
  • Using ear protection when necessary
  • Avoiding the use of cotton swabs or other objects to clean the ears, which can push earwax further into the ear canal and cause damage.
  • Having regular hearing check-ups.

Hearing Loss FAQ

Closeup portrait headshot senior man hard of hearing asking someone to speak up can't hear isolated gray wall background.

What is hearing loss?

Hearing loss is a partial or complete inability to hear sounds in one or both ears. It can occur at any age; exposure to loud noises, aging, infections, genetics, and certain medical conditions are important factors. The severity of hearing loss can range from mild to profound, impacting a person’s ability to communicate effectively and participate in daily activities.

What are the different types of hearing loss?

There are three main types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed.

What are the signs and symptoms of hearing loss?

The signs and symptoms of hearing loss can vary depending on the type and severity of the condition. Common signs and symptoms of hearing loss include difficulty hearing in noisy environments, asking people to repeat themselves, turning up the volume on the TV or radio, and feeling as though others are mumbling or not speaking clearly. In some cases, hearing loss can also cause social isolation, depression, and anxiety.

How is hearing loss diagnosed?

If you suspect that you have hearing loss, the first step is to schedule an appointment with an audiologist or a hearing healthcare professional. During the appointment, the hearing healthcare professional will perform a hearing test to determine the type and severity of the hearing loss.

What are the treatment options for hearing loss?

The treatment options for hearing loss depend on the type and severity of the condition. For example, if an ear infection causes hearing loss, antibiotics may be prescribed. However, the hearing professional loss will recommend prescription hearing aids. In cases where hearing aids, medication, or surgery is not an option, the audiologist may recommend a cochlear implant evaluation.

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