There are a variety of hearing loss types and treatments. While the term “hearing loss” is often used in a general way to describe a reduced ability to hear or understand sounds and speech, it can be separated into three distinct categories.
The most common category of hearing loss to affect otherwise healthy adults is sensorineural hearing loss, which occurs when there is a problem with the functioning either of the inner ear (also called the cochlea), or the hearing nerve pathways that connect the inner ear to the brain. A person with this type of hearing loss has difficulty hearing faint or soft sounds, and because the clarity of sound can seem muffled, it can be challenging to understand speech even when the volume is loud enough. Sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible and permanent, and is caused by factors such as aging, infections, or exposure to loud noise. It is most often treated with hearing aids, as medical or surgical treatments are usually not viable options. Miracle Ear hearing professionals are experienced at treating this type of hearing loss.
The second hearing loss category, known as conductive hearing loss, refers to hearing difficulties that are caused by problems with the outer or middle ear. As suggested by its name, in conductive hearing loss, sound is not conducted or transmitted effectively through the middle ear and eardrum, meaning that the sound that reaches the cochlea and the hearing nerves of the inner ear is reduced in intensity. Like sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss also results in a decreased ability to hear faint sounds, but because its causes are different and often physical in nature (such as a perforated eardrum, fluid in the middle ear, or wax in the ear canal), it can often be treated with medical or surgical techniques.
Mixed hearing loss, the third and final category, arises when both sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss occur together, meaning that both the inner ear and the outer or middle ear may be damaged. A person with mixed hearing loss can successfully have the conductive problem treated, which can minimize the degree of hearing loss somewhat, but he or she may still require hearing aids to compensate for the permanent sensorineural loss.
Bilateral means hearing loss in both ears, whereas unilateral means hearing loss in one ear. In general , most people have one ear that hears better than the other. If hearing loss is present in both ears and seems to be of the same severity, this is referred to as symmetrical bilateral hearing loss. If hearing loss is present in both ears but at varying severity, this is called asymmetrical bilateral hearing loss. Bilateral and unilateral hearing loss can both be caused by the same things, such as exposure to loud noise or ototoxic medications.
Low frequency hearing loss impacts the deeper pitches, typically 2,000 Hz and below. People can often understand speech fairly well with a low frequency hearing loss. People with high frequency hearing loss, on the other hand, have trouble hearing sounds in the 2,000 to 8,000 Hz range. This type of hearing loss means it's more difficult to understand speech, particularly the voices of women children.