Louisville Family Audiology - Louisville, KY

Shot of a senior man drinking coffee and looking thoughtfully out of a window wondering about hearing loss.

Have you ever purchased one of those “one size fits all” t-shirts only to be dismayed (and surprised) when the shirt doesn’t, in fact, fit as advertised? That’s really frustrating. The fact is that there’s virtually nothing in the world that is truly a “one size fits all”. That’s a fact with t-shirts and it’s also true with medical conditions, such as hearing loss. There can be numerous reasons why it occurs.

So what are the most prevalent types of hearing loss and what causes them? Well, that’s precisely what we intend to explore.

There are different forms of hearing loss

Because hearing is such a complex cognitive and physical process, no two people’s hearing loss will be precisely the same. Maybe you hear perfectly well at the office, but not in a crowded restaurant. Or, perhaps specific frequencies of sound get lost. Your hearing loss can take a wide variety of forms.

How your hearing loss shows up, in part, could be dictated by what causes your symptoms to begin with. Lots of things can go wrong with an organ as intricate as the ear.

How your hearing works

Before you can totally understand how hearing loss works, or what degree of hearing loss requires a hearing aid, it’s practical to consider how things are supposed to function, how your ear is typically supposed to work. Check out this breakdown:

  • Outer ear: This is the visible portion of the ear. It’s the initial sound receiver. Sounds are efficiently 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: This is where your stereocilia are found. These fragile hairs detect vibrations and begin converting those vibrations into electrical signals. Your cochlea helps here, also. This electrical energy is then carried to your brain.
  • Auditory nerve: This nerve sends these electrical signals to the brain.
  • Auditory system: From your brain to your outer ear, the “auditory system” encompasses all of the elements discussed above. It’s important to understand that all of these components are constantly working together and in concert with each other. Usually, in other words, the whole system will be affected if any one part has issues.

Hearing loss varieties

There are numerous types of hearing loss because there are numerous parts of the ear. Which form you develop will depend on the underlying cause.

The prevalent types of hearing loss include:

  • Conductive hearing loss: This type of hearing loss occurs because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, often in the middle or outer ear. Normally, fluid or inflammation is the cause of this blockage (this typically happens, for instance, when you have an ear infection). A growth in the ear can sometimes cause conductive hearing loss. Normally, with conductive hearing loss, your hearing will return to normal as soon as the blockage is gone.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss: When the tiny hairs that pick up sound, called stereocilia, are damaged by loud sound they are normally destroyed. Normally, this is a chronic, progressive and permanent form of hearing loss. As a result, individuals are usually encouraged to prevent this type of hearing loss by using ear protection. If you’re dealing with sensorineural hearing loss, it can still be managed by devices such as hearing aids.
  • Mixed hearing loss: It sometimes happens that a person 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 treat.
  • Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: It’s fairly rare for somebody to develop ANSD. It takes place when the cochlea does not properly transmit sounds from your ear to your brain. A device known as a cochlear implant is usually used to manage this kind of hearing loss.

Each form of hearing loss requires a different treatment strategy, but the desired results are usually the same: to improve or maintain your ability to hear.

Hearing loss kinds have variations

And that’s not all! Any of these common types of hearing loss can be further categorized (and more specifically). Here are some examples:

  • Fluctuating or stable: Fluctuating hearing loss refers to hearing loss that comes and goes. Stable hearing loss stays at about the same level.
  • Congenital hearing loss: If you’re born with hearing loss it’s called “congenital”.
  • Symmetrical or asymmetrical: This indicates whether your hearing loss is the same in both ears or unequal in both ears.
  • High frequency vs. low frequency: You may experience more trouble hearing high or low-frequency sounds. Your hearing loss can then be classified as one or the other.
  • Acquired hearing loss: If you develop hearing loss because of outside causes, such as damage, it’s known as “acquired”.
  • 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 impact the way hearing loss is treated.
  • Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either going through hearing loss in just one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
  • Progressive or sudden: Hearing loss that gradually worsens over time is called “progressive”. Hearing loss that erupts or shows up immediately is called “sudden”.

That may seem like a lot, and it is. The point is that each classification helps us more accurately and effectively treat your symptoms.

A hearing test is in order

So how can you tell what type, and which sub-type, of hearing loss you have? Unfortunately, hearing loss isn’t really something you can self-diagnose with much accuracy. It will be hard for you to know, for example, whether your cochlea is functioning properly.

But you can get a hearing exam to determine exactly what’s going on. It’s like when you have a check engine light on in your car and you take it to a skilled auto technician. We can help you determine what type of hearing loss you’re dealing with by hooking you up to a wide variety of modern technology.

So give us a call today and schedule an appointment to figure out what’s going on.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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