Types of Hearing Loss – Causes & Treatments
There are 3 main types of hearing loss that affect millions of people around the globe which can have an impact on daily living. They type and severity of the hearing loss will help determine the best way to treat it.
The three main types of hearing loss are:
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
This is the most common type of hearing loss and is characterized by damage or problems with the inner ear. Sensorineural hearing loss can occur when hair cells in the inner ear are damaged or nerve cells are affected, including the auditory nerve which is responsible for delivering sound to the brain.
Sensorineural hearing loss may be caused by a variety of factors. Although it most often develops later in life, it is possible for a child to be born with this type of hearing loss. In cases where it is present at birth it most likely the result of a genetic syndrome or an infection passed from mother to foetus.
Some of the more prevalent causes include:
- Presbycusis – age-related hearing loss
- Chronic exposure to loud noise
These are the two most common causes, but there are several other factors that may also play a role in sensorineural hearing loss:
- Head trauma
- Viral infection
- Autoimmune diseases
- Cardiovascular disease or diabetes
- Meniere’s disease
- Medication side effects
- Acoustic neuroma
Sensorineural hearing loss cannot be typically corrected or treated with medical procedures or surgery. Once the tiny hairs (cilia) in the inner ear become damaged, that damage is irreversible. However, There are a wide range of hearing aid devices that can be used to treat this type of hearing loss by amplifying sounds that have become inaudible.
Typical treatments include:
- Hearing aids – variety of devices available depending on severity and other factors
- Cochlear implants
- Assistive listening devices – Notification systems, personal amplifier, amplified telephones, TV streamer
- Corticosteroids – can be used to reduce cochlea hair cell swelling and inflammation
Conductive Hearing Loss
This type of hearing loss generally involves issues with the ear canal, ear drum, or middle ear and all the small bones present in it. Conductive hearing loss occurs when there is blockage or damage which prevents sounds from reaching the inner ear.
Causes of conductive hearing loss can be broken down by the area of the ear the problem originates in.
Some common causes of conductive hearing loss occurring in the middle ear are:
- Fluid buildup from colds, viruses, or ear infections
- Ear drum puncture
- Tympanosclerosis – ear drum scarring
- Blockage of the Eustachian tube
- Abnormal growths or tumors
- Otosclerosis – abnormal bone growth in the middle ear
Depending on the nature and origin of conductive hearing loss, there are several treatments available to help correct the issue. Some possible options include:
- Surgery and medical procedures to correct abnormal structures or remove obstructions
- Earwax extraction
- Antibiotics and medications
- Hearing aids
- Bone-anchored implantable devices
Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss incorporates any combination of conductive hearing damage to the middle or outer ear and sensorineural damage to the inner ear.
This type of hearing loss can occur gradually over time or may be the result of some sort of sudden trauma or injury. A typically example of mixed hearing loss may be found in an individual with conductive hearing damage that is also now experiencing sensorineural loss as they get older. On the other hand, seniors with age-related hearing loss may develop conductive hearing loss due to excess wax buildup.
Treatments for mixed hearing loss will depend on which type of hearing loss is more severe and problematic. In most cases, it is recommended to address the conductive hearing loss first. To correct and manage mixed hearing loss a combination of medical procedures and hearing aid devices may be required.