Hearing loss may take a variety of forms and arise from many different causes, and to fully understand them you need to understand the way in which we hear. Sound enters through the outer ear, which is the portion of the ear on the exterior of the head, but also encompasses the eardrum and the ear canal. In the middle ear three miniature bones called ossicles transmit sounds to the inner ear by converting sounds into vibrations.Finally, the inner ear comprises the cochlea (a tiny, snail-shaped organ), two canals with a semicircular shape which are important to our sense of balance, and the acoustic nerves, which convey the signals to our brains. All of this is exceedingly complicated and delicate, and a problem in any section may result in hearing loss. There are 4 primary classes of hearing loss.
Something interfering with the transmission of sound through the outer or middle ear is called conductive hearing loss. Hearing aids can manage conductive hearing loss if medication or a surgical procedure cannot address it.
Sensorineural hearing loss generally refers to damage to the hair cells of the inner ear, to the cochlea, or sometimes to the acoustic nerves. Hearing aids are usually the best option for treating sensorineural hearing loss, as most cases are not successfully remedied with medication or surgery.
Mixed hearing loss involves both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss, and can occasionally (but not always) be treated with a combination of surgery, medication, and/or hearing aids.
The fourth and final classification is called central hearing loss, and happens when sound passes through the ear normally, but some form of damage to the inner ear causes it to be scrambled so that it is not properly understood by our brains.
Spanning each of these four main classifications are sub-categories of degree, meaning that the hearing loss may be mid-level, moderate, severe, or profound. Additional sub-categories include whether the hearing loss occurs in one ear or both ears (unilateral vs. bilateral), whether it occurs at the same degree in both ears (symmetrical vs. asymmetrical), and whether the hearing loss happened before or after the person learned to speak (pre-lingual vs post-lingual). Hearing loss can also be categorized as having occurred slowly or gradually (progressive vs. sudden), whether the degree of loss changes and gets better at times or stays the same (fluctuating vs. stable), and whether the loss was present at birth or developed later in life (congenital vs. acquired). The most important thing to bear in mind, however, is that whatever type of hearing loss you may have incurred, our specialists can help you to diagnose and treat it properly.