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

Have you ever seen a t-shirt promoted as “one size fits all” but when you went to try it on, you were disheartened to find that it didn’t fit at all? It’s kind of a bummer, right? The truth is that there’s virtually nothing in the world that is really a “one size fits all”. That’s not only true with clothing, it’s also true with medical conditions like hearing loss. This can be true for many reasons.

So what causes hearing loss? And what is the most prevalent kind of hearing loss? Let’s see what we can find out!

There are different types of hearing loss

Because hearing is such an intricate cognitive and physical operation, no two people’s hearing loss will be exactly the same. Perhaps you hear just fine at the office, but not in a crowded restaurant. Or perhaps you only have difficulty with high or low-pitched sounds. Your hearing loss can take a wide variety of shapes.

How your hearing loss presents, in part, might be dictated by what’s causing your symptoms to begin with. Because your ear is a very complex little organ, there are any number of things that can go wrong.

How your hearing works

It’s useful to get an idea of how hearing is supposed to work before we can determine what degree of hearing loss calls for a hearing aid. Check out this breakdown:

  • Outer ear: This is the visible part of the ear. It’s where you’re initially exposed to a “sound”. The shape of your ear helps direct those sounds into your middle ear (where they are processed further).
  • Middle ear: The eardrum and some tiny bones are what your middle ear is composed of (Yes, there are some tiny little bones in there).
  • Inner ear: Your stereocilia are found hear. Vibration is picked up by these little hairs which are then converted into electrical energy. Your cochlea plays a role in this too. This electrical energy is then transmitted to your brain.
  • Auditory nerve: This nerve is located in your ear, and it’s responsible for transmitting and sending this electrical energy to your brain.
  • Auditory system: From your brain to your outer ear, the “auditory system” encompasses all of the elements discussed above. The total hearing process depends on all of these parts working in concert with one another. Typically, in other words, the entire system will be impacted if any one part has issues.

Varieties of hearing loss

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

The prevalent types of hearing loss include:

  • Conductive hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss occurs because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, frequently in the outer or middle ear. Usually, fluid or inflammation is the reason for this blockage (this usually happens, for instance, when you have an ear infection). A growth in the ear can sometimes cause conductive hearing loss. Typically, with conductive hearing loss, your hearing will go back to normal as soon as the obstruction is gone.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss: When your ears are damaged by loud noise, the fragile hair cells which detect sound, called stereocilia, are destroyed. This type of hearing loss is usually chronic, progressive, and irreversible. As a result, individuals are usually encouraged to avoid this type of hearing loss by wearing hearing protection. Even though sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, it can be effectively managed with hearing aids.
  • Mixed hearing loss: It’s also possible to have a combination of sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. This can often be challenging to treat because the hearing loss is coming from different places.
  • Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: It’s fairly rare for somebody to develop ANSD. When sound isn’t effectively transmitted from your ear to your brain, this kind of hearing loss occurs. A device known as a cochlear implant is usually used to treat this type of hearing loss.

The desired results are the same even though the treatment solution will differ for each type of hearing loss: to improve or preserve your ability to hear.

Hearing loss kinds have variations

And that’s not all! We can analyze and categorize these common types of hearing loss even more specifically. For instance, hearing loss can also be classified as:

  • Acquired hearing loss: Hearing loss that happens due to outside causes (like damage).
  • Progressive or sudden: Hearing loss that gradually gets worse over time is called “progressive”. If your hearing loss arises all at once, it’s known as “sudden”.
  • Symmetrical or asymmetrical: This indicates whether your hearing loss is the same in both ears or unequal in both ears.
  • Congenital hearing loss: If you’re born with hearing loss it’s known as “congenital”.
  • Fluctuating or stable: Fluctuating hearing loss refers to hearing loss that comes and goes. If your hearing loss stays at approximately the same levels, it’s called stable.
  • Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to talk, it’s known as pre-lingual. Hearing loss is post-lingual when it develops after you learned to talk. This will affect the way hearing loss is addressed.
  • High frequency vs. low frequency: You might have more difficulty hearing high or low-frequency sounds. Your hearing loss can then be categorized as one or the other.
  • Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: It’s possible to develop hearing loss in one ear (unilateral), or in both (bilateral).

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

A hearing test is in order

So how can you be sure which of these categories applies to your hearing loss scenario? Self-diagnosis of hearing loss isn’t, regrettably, 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 kind of like a “check engine” light. We can help you figure out what type of hearing loss you’re dealing with by hooking you up to a wide variety of modern technology.

So contact us as soon as you can and schedule an appointment to figure out what’s going on.

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