The Different Degrees of Hearing Loss Explained
Hearing loss is the third most common public health issue affecting Americans (behind heart disease and arthritis). Up to 65 million people in the United States have some level of hearing loss.
Hearing loss can occur at any time in our lives. Genetics can cause some types of hearing loss. Other hearing loss is the result of environmental or lifestyle factors.
Types Of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be categorized into three main types:
- Sensorineural hearing loss
- Conductive hearing loss
- Mixed hearing loss
Hearing loss can vary in its severity from mild, moderate, severe, all the way up to a profound loss of hearing sensitivity.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common form of hearing loss. Hearing loss that happens due to the natural aging process, known as presbycusis, is a form of sensorineural hearing loss.
Permanent sensorineural hearing loss is caused by the loss of the delicate hair cells within the cochlea of the ear. People are born with a limited number of these cells and they do not repair themselves when they become damaged.
Causes of Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural Hearing Loss can be caused by:
- The natural aging process.
- Prolonged and frequent exposure to loud noises. This can include loud machinery, but can also be caused from exposure to loud music.
- Chemotherapy or medications that have ototoxic side effects.
- Infectious diseases, such as Lyme, Rubella or Syphilis.
- An injury to the head.
- Benign tumors on the auditory nerve.
- Genetic predisposition – some people are especially prone to hearing loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss impacts the ability to hear quiet sounds, but it also diminishes the clarity of sounds that are heard. Individuals who suffer from this type of hearing loss will often struggle to understand speech.
When a person with sensorineural leaves the condition untreated for a long period of time, their social interactions can become strained and they begin to experience frustrations when communicating with friends and family. Sensorineural hearing loss cannot be cured at this time, but the impact can be lessened with the help of hearing aids.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss occurs when problems with the eardrum, bones, muscles or ligaments in the middle ear prevent sound from passing through to the inner ear. Blockages in the middle or outer ear slow down the vibrations of incoming sound which results in hearing loss.
Causes of Conductive Hearing Loss
Common causes of conductive hearing loss can include:
- Wax impaction
- Narrowing of the ear canal
- Ear infection
- Foreign body or obstruction
- Abnormal growth
Conductive hearing loss can often be managed with medical treatment by an otolaryngologist.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss is any combination of sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss.
Causes of Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss is often caused by trauma to the ear. It may also happen over time, if one type of hearing loss is compounded by another type. For example, someone with age-related hearing loss may experience conductive hearing loss if they have an ear infection.
As the third most common public health issue affecting Americans (behind arthritis and heart disease), hearing loss is an important condition to manage proactively.
Trust the Experts at Anderson Audiology
If you would like to speak with one of our experienced hearing care professionals, please get in touch. Our team would be happy to help. Contact the hearing healthcare specialists at Anderson Audiology today on 702-997-2964. Alternatively, click here to request an appointment online.