Hearing loss is classified in a number of ways. The exact part of the auditory system affected is what determines the categorization. In this article we supply a breakdown of 5 different types – sensorineural, conductive, mixed, functional and central. Certain forms of hearing impairment are more treatable than others, and a hearing healthcare specialist can explain your choices after an examination.
- Conductive hearing loss – When sound waves aren’t completely conducted to the inner ear through the structures of the outer and middle ear, conductive hearing loss arises. Conductive hearing loss is quite common and can be caused by an accumulation of ear wax, an accumulation of fluid in the eustacian tube, which prevents the eardrum from moving, a middle ear infection, a perforated eardrum, disease of the tiny bones of the middle ear and other blockages in the ear canal.The majority of instances of conductive hearing loss are reversible, presuming there isn’t any permanent damage to the regions of the middle ear, and with treatment the trouble usually resolves in a short amount of time. In some instances surgery can assist in correcting the problem or a hearing aid may be recommended.
- Sensorineural hearing loss – Sensorineural hearing loss is responsible for over 90% of the instances in which a hearing aid is used. Sensorineural hearing loss is due to damage in the inner ear or damage to the acoustic nerve, which blocks sound signals from reaching the brain. Also known as nerve deafness or retrocochlear hearing loss, the impairment is generally speaking irreversible, though advancements in technology have permitted some previously untreatable cases to see some improvement. The most common causes of sensorineural hearing loss are aging, extended exposure to noise, complications with circulation of blood to the inner ear, fluid disturbance in the inner ear, medications that cause damage to the ear, some diseases, heredity and problems with the auditory nerve. Hearing aids are suitable for most people that have this kind of hearing loss, but in more severe cases, a cochlear implant can help restore hearing to those individuals for whom a standard hearing aid is insufficient.
- Central hearing loss – Central hearing loss arises in situations where a problem in the CNS (central nervous system) prevents sound signals from being processed by the brain. Affected individuals can seemingly hear perfectly well, but cannot decode or interpret what is being said. Numerous cases involve a problem with the person’s ability to properly filter rival sounds. For instance, the majority of us can have a conversation while there is traffic noise in the background, but individuals with central hearing loss have a really hard time with this.
- Mixed hearing loss – As the term suggests, mixed hearing loss is a blend of different types of hearing loss – sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. Though there are a few other types of hearing loss, the combination of these two is most common.
- Functional hearing loss – An infrequent occurrence, this type of hearing loss does not have a psysiological explanation. This condition is due to an emotional or psychological problem in which the person’s physical ability to hear is normal, however they do not seem to be able to hear.