Have you ever purchased one of those “one size fits all” t-shirts only to be dismayed (and shocked) when the shirt does not, in fact, fit as advertised? It’s kind of a bummer, isn’t it? The fact is that there’s almost nothing in the world that is really a “one size fits all”. That’s not only true with clothing, it’s also true with medical conditions like hearing loss. There can be many reasons why it happens.
So what are the most common kinds of hearing loss and what are their causes? Let’s find out!
There are different types of hearing loss
Everyone’s hearing loss scenario will be as individual as they are. Maybe when you’re in a noisy restaurant you can’t hear that well, but at work, you hear fine. Or, maybe specific frequencies of sound get lost. There are numerous forms that your hearing loss can take.
The root cause of your hearing loss will determine how it manifests. Any number of things can go wrong with an organ as intricate as the ear.
How does hearing work?
It’s helpful to get an idea of how hearing is supposed to work before we can determine what level of hearing loss calls for a hearing aid. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Outer ear: This is the visible part of the ear. It’s where you are initially exposed to a “sound”. The shape of your ear helps funnel those sounds into your middle ear (where they are processed further).
- Middle ear: The eardrum and some tiny bones are what your middle ear is composed of (yes, you have bones in your ear, but they are admittedly very, very tiny).
- Inner ear: This is where your stereocilia are found. Vibration is detected by these fragile hairs which are then converted into electrical energy. Your cochlea helps here, too. Our brain then receives this electrical energy.
- Auditory nerve: This nerve directs these electrical signals to the brain.
- Auditory system: All of the elements listed above, from your brain to your outer ear, are components of your “auditory system”. The total hearing process depends on all of these parts working in unison with one another. Typically, in other words, the entire system will be impacted if any one part has issues.
Hearing loss types
There are numerous forms of hearing loss because there are numerous parts of the ear. Which form you experience will depend on the underlying cause.
Here are some of the most common causes:
- Conductive hearing loss: When there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, usually the middle or outer ear, this type of hearing loss occurs. Normally, fluid or inflammation is the reason for this blockage (this usually happens, for instance, when you have an ear infection). A growth in the ear can occasionally cause conductive hearing loss. Once the blockage is eliminated, hearing will normally go back to normal.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: When the fragile hairs that detect sound, called stereocilia, are damaged by loud noise they are usually destroyed. Normally, this is a chronic, progressive and irreversible type of hearing loss. Typically, individuals are encouraged to wear ear protection to prevent this type of hearing loss. If you’re dealing with sensorineural hearing loss, it can still be treated by devices such as hearing aids.
- Mixed hearing loss: It sometimes happens that somebody will experience both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss simultaneously. Because the hearing loss is coming from several different places, this can sometimes be challenging to manage.
- Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: It’s relatively rare for somebody to develop ANSD. When sound is not effectively transmitted from your ear to your brain, this kind of hearing loss occurs. A device called a cochlear implant is normally used to manage this kind of hearing loss.
The desired results are the same even though the treatment option will vary for each form of hearing loss: improving your hearing ability.
Hearing loss types have variations
And that’s not all! We can break down and categorize these common types of hearing loss even more specifically. For instance, hearing loss can also be classified as:
- High frequency vs. low frequency: You might have more difficulty hearing high or low-frequency sounds. Your hearing loss can then be categorized as one or the other.
- Acquired hearing loss: If you experience hearing loss due to external forces, like damage, it’s called “acquired”.
- Progressive or sudden: You have “progressive” hearing loss if it gradually worsens over time. If your hearing loss occurs all at once, it’s called “sudden”.
- Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either going through hearing loss in only one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
- Congenital hearing loss: Hearing loss you were born with.
- Pre-lingual or post-lingual: Hearing loss is called pre-lingual when it develops before you learned to talk. If your hearing loss developed after you learned to speak, it’s called post-lingual. This can have implications for treatment and adaptation.
- Symmetrical or asymmetrical: If your hearing loss is the same in both ears it’s symmetrical and if it’s not the same in both ears it’s asymmetrical.
- Fluctuating or stable: Fluctuating hearing loss refers to hearing loss that comes and goes. If your hearing loss remains at about the same levels, it’s known as stable.
That might seem like a lot, and it is. The point is that each classification helps us more accurately and effectively manage your symptoms.
Time to have a hearing test
So how can you be sure which of these categories pertains to your hearing loss situation? Self-diagnosis of hearing loss isn’t, unfortunately, something that’s at all accurate. As an example, is your cochlea working correctly, how would you know?
But you can get a hearing test to find out exactly what’s going on. Your loss of hearing is kind of like a “check engine” light. We can help you determine what type of hearing loss you’re dealing with by hooking you up to a wide variety of modern technology.
So give us a call as soon as you can and make an appointment to figure out what’s happening.