Hearing loss can occur at any age and with one in six people in the UK with some degree of hearing impairment, it affects a lot of us. There are a range of causes, types and severities of hearing loss, which will usually happen gradually but can also happen suddenly. To discover which type of hearing loss a patient is suffering, they must undergo an examination. There are 4 main types of hearing loss that are categorized depending on which part of the ear is affected. Once a patient is diagnosed, only then can they discuss the causes, symptoms and treatments.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss and it occurs when the inner ear nerves are damaged so they are unable to accurately send auditory signals to the brain. Sounds are therefore unclear and blurry even at loud volumes.
- Head trauma
- Malformation of the inner ear
- Exposure to loud noises
- Side effect of medicine
- Sounds are too quiet
- Sounds are too loud
- Speech of others seems mumbled and is hard to follow
- Dizziness and problems with balance
- Problems hearing in loud environments
- Constant ringing sounds in the ear
There are currently very few ways to correct sensorineural hearing loss medically or surgically if the nerves are damaged. However this type of hearing loss can be treated successfully with hearing aids or cochlea implants.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Occurring when there is damage or an impediment to either the middle or outer ear, conductive hearing loss can be temporary or permanent. Outside sounds are usually prevented from entering the ear canal properly, yet inside sounds such as humming or chewing can be heard loudly. The severity of conductive hearing loss can vary, but a sufferer cannot go completely deaf.
- Blockage of the ear canal (such as wax, fluid or water)
- Perforated ear drum
- Insertion of a foreign object in to the ear canal
- Rapid change of air pressure
- Tumours or growths
- Hole in the ear drum
- Outside sounds are muffled
- One’s own sounds are louder, such as speaking and eating
- Hearing is better from one ear
- Pain or pressure in one or both ears
- Smell from the ear canal
Surgeries, medicine and hearing technologies can cure or improve most types of conductive hearing loss, depending on the cause.
Mixed Hearing Loss
A combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, mixed hearing loss refers to damage in both the inner ear and the outer or middle ear.
- Ear experiences trauma
- When one type of hearing loss gets worse, either by infection or wax impaction
- A combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss symptoms at the same time
Possible treatments for mixed hearing loss include surgery, medicine and hearing technologies such as hearing aids, bone conduction implants and MEI.
Neural Hearing Loss
Neural hearing loss is the rarest and most complicated type that usually leads to permanent hearing loss. Due to the auditory nerves not working, sounds cannot be processed through the ear or by the brain.
- Damaged or absent auditory nerve
- Permanent and severe hearing loss
Due to the missing or damaged nerves, hearing aids and cochlear implants do not work as the sound information is not passed on to the brain. The only solution may be an auditory brainstem implant.