Have you ever purchased one of those “one size fits all” t-shirts only to be dismayed (and surprised) when the shirt does not, in fact, fit as advertised? That’s truly frustrating. The reality is that there’s pretty much nothing in the world that is really a “one size fits all”. That’s true with t-shirts and it’s also true with medical conditions, such as hearing loss. There can be many reasons why it happens.
So what are the most prevalent types of hearing loss and what causes them? Well, that’s exactly what we intend to find out.
There are different forms of hearing loss
Everyone’s hearing loss situation will be as individual as they are. Perhaps when you’re in a crowded restaurant you can’t hear that well, but when you’re at work, you hear just fine. Or perhaps you only have difficulty with high-pitched voices or low-pitched sounds. Your hearing loss can take a variety of forms.
How your hearing loss presents, in part, may be determined by what causes your symptoms in the first place. Because your ear is a rather complex little organ, there are any number of things that can go wrong.
How does hearing work?
It’s useful to get an understanding 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 the initial sound receiver. Sounds are effectively guided into your middle ear for further processing by the shape of your outer ear.
- Middle ear: The middle ear comprises your eardrum and a few tiny ear bones (yes, you have bones in your ear, but they are admittedly very, very tiny).
- Inner ear: Your stereocilia are found hear. Vibration is detected by these little hairs which are then converted into electrical energy. Your cochlea helps here, too. Our brain then receives these electrical signals.
- Auditory nerve: This nerve directs these electrical signals to the brain.
- Auditory system: All of the parts listed above, from your brain to your outer ear, are components of your “auditory system”. The total hearing process depends on all of these elements working in concert with one another. In other words, the system is interconnected, so any problem in one area will typically affect the performance of the entire system.
Varieties of hearing loss
There are numerous types of hearing loss because there are numerous parts of the ear. The root cause of your hearing loss will determine which kind of hearing loss you experience.
Here are some of the most common causes:
- Conductive hearing loss: When there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, often the middle or outer ear, this form of hearing loss happens. Typically, this blockage is a consequence of fluid or inflammation (this typically happens, for example, when you have an ear infection). A growth in the ear can occasionally cause conductive hearing loss. Typically, with conductive hearing loss, your hearing will return to normal once the blockage has been removed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: When your ears are damaged by loud noise, the tiny hair cells which pick up sound, called stereocilia, are destroyed. Usually, this is a chronic, progressive and irreversible type of hearing loss. Typically, people are encouraged to wear hearing protection to avoid this kind of hearing loss. If you have sensorineural hearing loss, it can still be treated by devices like hearing aids.
- Mixed hearing loss: It’s also possible to have a combination of sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. Because the hearing loss is coming from several different places, this can sometimes be difficult to manage.
- Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: ANSD is a fairly rare condition. 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 treat this kind of hearing loss.
Each form of hearing loss requires a different treatment method, but the desired results are often the same: improving your hearing ability.
Hearing loss types have variations
And that isn’t all! We can analyze and categorize these common types of hearing loss even more specifically. For instance, hearing loss can also be classified as:
- Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to talk, it’s called pre-lingual. If your hearing loss developed after you learned to talk, it’s known as post-lingual. This can have implications for treatment and adaptation.
- Progressive or sudden: Hearing loss that gradually gets worse over time is called “progressive”. If your hearing loss happens all at once, it’s known as “sudden”.
- Congenital hearing loss: If you’re born with hearing loss it’s called “congenital”.
- High frequency vs. low frequency: Your hearing loss can be categorized as one or the other depending on what frequency range is getting lost.
- Fluctuating or stable: Fluctuating hearing loss refers to hearing loss that comes and goes. Stable hearing loss stays at relatively the same level.
- Acquired hearing loss: Hearing loss that develops due to outside forces (such as damage).
- 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.
- Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either going through hearing loss in only one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. The point is that each categorization helps us more precisely and effectively treat your symptoms.
A hearing exam is in order
So how do you know what type, and what sub-type, of hearing loss you have? Self-diagnosis of hearing loss isn’t, unfortunately, something that’s at all accurate. As an example, is your cochlea functioning properly, how would you know?
But that’s what hearing tests are for! Your loss of hearing is sort of like a “check engine” light. We can help you identify what type of hearing loss you’re dealing with by connecting you to a wide variety of modern technology.
So the best way to determine what’s going on is to make an appointment with us as soon as you can!