Have you ever bought one of those “one size fits all” t-shirts only to be disappointed (and surprised) when the shirt does not, in fact, fit as advertised? It’s kind of a bummer, right? There aren’t actually very many “one size fits all” with anything in the real world. That’s true with t-shirts and it’s also relevant with medical conditions, such as hearing loss. This can be accurate for numerous reasons.
So what are the most common kinds 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 an intricate mental and physical operation, no two people’s hearing loss will be precisely the same. Maybe when you’re in a noisy restaurant you can’t hear that well, but at work, you hear fine. Or, maybe certain frequencies of sound get lost. There are a wide variety of forms that your hearing loss can take.
The root cause of your hearing loss will determine how it manifests. Because your ear is a very complex little organ, there are any number of things that can go wrong.
How does hearing work?
Before you can thoroughly understand how hearing loss works, or what level of hearing loss calls for a hearing aid, it’s practical to think a bit about how things are supposed to function, how your ear is generally supposed to work. Check out this breakdown:
- Outer ear: This is the part of the ear that’s visible. It’s the initial sound receiver. The shape of your ear helps funnel those sounds into your middle ear (where they are processed further).
- 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: 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 also. This electrical energy is then carried to your brain.
- Auditory nerve: This nerve is located in your ear, and it’s responsible for channeling and sending this electrical energy towards your brain.
- Auditory system: All of the components listed above, from your brain to your outer ear, are elements of your “auditory system”. It’s important to understand that all of these parts are continually working together and in unison with each other. Typically, in other words, the entire system will be impacted if any one part has issues.
Types of hearing loss
There are numerous types of hearing loss because there are multiple parts of the ear. The root cause of your hearing loss will determine which kind of hearing loss you develop.
Here are some of the most common causes:
- Conductive hearing loss: When there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, often the middle or outer ear, this type of hearing loss happens. Usually, fluid or inflammation is the cause of this blockage (this usually happens, for example, when you have an ear infection). A growth in the ear can sometimes cause conductive hearing loss. Usually, with conductive hearing loss, your hearing will return to normal when the obstruction 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 irreversible type of hearing loss. Typically, individuals are encouraged to wear ear protection to avoid this kind of hearing loss. Even though sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, it can be effectively treated with hearing aids.
- Mixed hearing loss: It sometimes happens that someone will experience both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss simultaneously. This can sometimes be difficult to treat because the hearing loss is coming from different places.
- Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: It’s relatively rare for somebody to develop ANSD. It takes place when the cochlea does not properly transmit sounds from your ear to your brain. ANSD can usually be managed with a device known as a cochlear implant.
The desired results are the same even though the treatment solution will vary for each form of hearing loss: improving your hearing ability.
Hearing loss kinds have variations
And that’s not all! Any of these normal types of hearing loss can be categorized further (and with more specificity). For instance, hearing loss can also be classified as:
- Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to speak, it’s known as pre-lingual. If your hearing loss developed after you learned to talk, it’s called post-lingual. This will affect the way hearing loss is managed.
- Congenital hearing loss: If you’re born with hearing loss it’s called “congenital”.
- Fluctuating or stable: If your hearing loss has a tendency to come and go, it may be referred to as fluctuating. If your hearing loss remains at roughly the same levels, it’s called stable.
- Acquired hearing loss: Hearing loss that develops as a result of outside forces (like damage).
- Symmetrical or asymmetrical: If your hearing loss is the same in both ears it’s symmetrical and if it’s not the same in both ears it’s asymmetrical.
- High frequency vs. low frequency: You may experience more trouble hearing high or low-frequency sounds. Your hearing loss can then be categorized as one or the other.
- Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either going through hearing loss in only one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
- Progressive or sudden: Hearing loss that gradually gets worse over time is called “progressive”. If your hearing loss occurs all at once, it’s known as “sudden”.
If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. The point is that each categorization helps us more accurately and effectively treat your symptoms.
A hearing exam is in order
So how do you know which type, and which sub-type, of hearing loss you have? Unfortunately, hearing loss isn’t really something you can self-diagnose with much accuracy. For instance, is your cochlea working properly, how would you know?
But you can get a hearing exam to find out exactly what’s happening. It’s like when you have a check engine light on in your car and you bring it to a qualified auto technician. We can hook you up to a wide variety of machines, and help determine what type of hearing loss you’re dealing with.
So the best way to figure out what’s going on is to schedule an appointment with us today!