Have you ever seen a t-shirt advertised as “one size fits all” but when you went to put it on, you were discouraged to find that it didn’t fit at all? It’s sort of a bummer, right? There aren’t actually 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, like hearing loss. There can be numerous reasons why it happens.
So what are the most common kinds of hearing loss and what are their causes? Let’s see what we can find out!
Hearing loss comes in different forms
Because hearing is such an intricate cognitive and physical operation, no two people’s hearing loss will be exactly the same. Maybe when you’re in a crowded restaurant you can’t hear very well, but at work, you hear fine. 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, could be dictated by what’s causing your symptoms to begin with. Because your ear is a very complex little organ, there are lots of things that can go wrong.
How your hearing works
It’s helpful to get an idea of how hearing is supposed to work before we can determine what degree of hearing loss calls for a hearing aid. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Outer ear: This is the part of the ear that’s visible. It’s the initial sound receiver. Sounds are efficiently funneled into your middle ear for further processing due to the shape of your outer ear.
- Middle ear: The middle ear is composed of your eardrum and several tiny ear bones (yes, you have bones in your ear, but they are admittedly very, very tiny).
- Inner ear: Your stereocilia are found hear. These delicate hairs detect vibrations and begin translating those vibrations into electrical energy. Your cochlea plays a role in this also. This electrical energy is then sent to your brain.
- Auditory nerve: This nerve sends these electrical signals to the brain.
- Auditory system: From your brain to your outer ear, the “auditory system” encompasses all of the elements discussed above. It’s essential to recognize that all of these parts are constantly working together and in unison with each other. Typically, in other words, the entire system will be affected if any one part has problems.
Hearing loss varieties
There are numerous 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 common types of hearing loss include:
- Conductive hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss occurs because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, frequently in the outer or middle ear. Typically, this blockage is a consequence of fluid or inflammation (when you have an ear infection, for instance, this typically occurs). A growth in the ear can occasionally cause conductive hearing loss. Typically, with conductive hearing loss, your hearing will go back to normal once the blockage has been removed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: When your ears are damaged by loud noise, the fragile hair cells which pick up sound, called stereocilia, are destroyed. Usually, this is a chronic, progressive and permanent form of hearing loss. Typically, individuals are encouraged to wear ear protection to prevent this type of hearing loss. Even though sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, it can be effectively managed with hearing aids.
- Mixed hearing loss: It sometimes happens that a person will experience both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss simultaneously. Because the hearing loss is coming from numerous 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 happens. A device known as a cochlear implant is usually used to manage this kind of hearing loss.
The desired results are the same even though the treatment solution will vary for each form of hearing loss: to improve or maintain your ability to hear.
Variations on hearing loss types
And that isn’t all! Any of these normal types of hearing loss can be categorized further (and more specifically). For instance, hearing loss can also be classified as:
- Congenital hearing loss: Hearing loss you were born with.
- Pre-lingual or post-lingual: Hearing loss is known as pre-lingual when it develops before you learned to talk. Hearing loss is post-lingual when it develops after you learned to talk. This can have implications for treatment and adaptation.
- Fluctuating or stable: If your hearing loss has a tendency to appear and disappear, it may be referred to as fluctuating. If your hearing loss remains at roughly the same levels, it’s called stable.
- Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: It’s possible to develop hearing loss in one ear (unilateral), or in both (bilateral).
- 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.
- Progressive or sudden: Hearing loss that slowly worsens over time is called “progressive”. If your hearing loss arises all at once, it’s called “sudden”.
- Acquired hearing loss: If you experience hearing loss because of outside causes, like damage, it’s called “acquired”.
- High frequency vs. low frequency: Your hearing loss can be classified as one or the other depending on which frequency range is getting lost.
If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. The point is that each categorization helps us more accurately and effectively address your symptoms.
Time to have a hearing exam
So how do you know which type, and what sub-type, of hearing loss you’re experiencing? Self-diagnosis of hearing loss isn’t, regrettably, something that’s at all accurate. It will be difficult for you to know, for example, whether your cochlea is working properly.
But you can get a hearing exam to determine exactly what’s happening. Your loss of hearing is kind of like a “check engine” light. We can help you identify 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 schedule an appointment with us today!