Have you ever seen a t-shirt advertised as “one size fits all” but when you went to try it on, you were discouraged to find that it didn’t fit at all? That’s really aggravating. There aren’t actually very many “one size fits all” with anything in the real world. That’s a fact with t-shirts and it’s also relevant with medical conditions, such as hearing loss. There can be numerous reasons why it occurs.
So what are the most prevalent kinds of hearing loss and what causes them? Let’s find out!
There are different forms of hearing loss
Because hearing is such a complex cognitive and physical operation, no two people’s hearing loss will be exactly the same. Perhaps when you’re in a crowded restaurant you can’t hear that well, but at work, you hear fine. Or perhaps you only have problems with high or low-pitched sounds. Your loss of hearing can take a wide variety of forms.
How your hearing loss presents, in part, may be determined by what’s causing your symptoms in the first place. Any number of things can go wrong with an organ as intricate as the ear.
How your hearing works
It’s helpful to get an understanding of how hearing is supposed to work before we can figure out what level of hearing loss calls for a hearing aid. Check out this breakdown:
- Outer ear: This is the part of the ear that you can see. It’s where you’re initially exposed to a “sound”. Sounds are efficiently guided 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. Vibration is picked up by these little hairs which are then transformed into electrical signals. Your cochlea plays a role in this also. This electrical energy is then transmitted to your brain.
- Auditory nerve: This nerve is located in your ear, and it’s responsible for channeling and directing this electrical energy to your brain.
- Auditory system: From your brain to your outer ear, the “auditory system” includes all of the elements discussed above. It’s essential to understand that all of these elements are continually working together and in concert with each other. Typically, in other words, the whole system will be impacted if any one part has problems.
Hearing loss types
Because there are multiple parts of your auditory system, there are (as a result) numerous forms of hearing loss. The underlying 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: This type of hearing loss occurs because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, frequently in the outer or middle ear. Usually, 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. Usually, with conductive hearing loss, your hearing will go back to normal once the blockage is gone.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: When the fragile hairs that pick up sound, called stereocilia, are damaged by loud noise they are usually destroyed. Normally, this is a chronic, progressive and irreversible form of hearing loss. As a result, people are usually encouraged to prevent this type of hearing loss by using hearing protection. Even though sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, it can be effectively treated with hearing aids.
- Mixed hearing loss: It occasionally happens that someone 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 fairly rare for somebody to develop ANSD. It occurs when the cochlea does not properly transmit sounds from your ear to your brain. A device called a cochlear implant is usually used to treat this kind of hearing loss.
The desired results are the same even though the treatment solution will vary for each type of hearing loss: to improve or preserve your ability to hear.
Variations on hearing loss kinds
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:
- Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: It’s possible to experience hearing loss in one ear (unilateral), or in both (bilateral).
- Congenital hearing loss: Hearing loss you were born with.
- Acquired hearing loss: If you experience hearing loss due to external causes, such as damage, it’s known as “acquired”.
- Progressive or sudden: Hearing loss that gradually gets worse over time is called “progressive”. If your hearing loss occurs all at once, it’s known as “sudden”.
- High frequency vs. low frequency: You might have more trouble hearing high or low-frequency sounds. Your hearing loss can then be categorized as one or the other.
- Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to talk, it’s called pre-lingual. Hearing loss is post-lingual when it develops after you learned to speak. This will affect the way hearing loss is addressed.
- Fluctuating or stable: Fluctuating hearing loss refers to hearing loss that comes and goes. Stable hearing loss remains at relatively the same level.
- Symmetrical or asymmetrical: If your hearing loss is the same in both ears it’s symmetrical and if it isn’t the same in both ears it’s asymmetrical.
If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. The point is that each classification helps us more accurately and effectively address your symptoms.
A hearing exam is in order
So how can you tell which of these categories applies to your hearing loss scenario? Unfortunately, hearing loss isn’t really something you can accurately diagnose by yourself. It will be difficult for you to determine, for instance, whether your cochlea is functioning correctly.
But that’s what hearing tests are for! Your loss of hearing is sort of like a “check engine” light. We can help you determine what type of hearing loss you have by hooking you up to a wide variety of modern technology.
So the best way to determine what’s going on is to schedule an appointment with us as soon as you can!