There are three main different types of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive and mixed hearing loss. Additionally, there are also different types defining the severity of the hearing loss varying from Mild to Profound hearing loss.
Not everyone's experience of hearing loss will be equal and the key difference between the types of hearing loss is the physical location of the problem within the ear. In order to determine the types and severity of hearing loss, an audiological evaluation is required so that a medical professional can identify the type and make recommendations on how to manage it. Especially, as Severe and Profound hearing loss may need expert help to treat.
Sensorineural hearing loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss. The root of the cause occurs in either the cochlea or the hearing nerve pathways from the inner ear that carries information about the loudness and clarity of sounds to the brain.
A number of things can result in sensorineural hearing loss including noise exposure, head trauma, infection, age or genetics. Symptoms can include muffled hearing and tinnitus, as well as difficulty hearing when the speaker's face is not visible and misunderstanding speech. Unfortunately, this type of hearing loss is irreversible. However, it can be effectively treated with hearing aids.
Conductive hearing lossConductive hearing loss occurs when sounds can't get from the outer ear to the eardrum and tiny bones of the inner ear. Some of the causes of conductive hearing loss can include:
- An accumulation of earwax
- A collection of fluid in the middle ear
- Abnormal bone growth in the middle ear (otosclerosis)
- Middle ear infections (otitis media)
- Perforation of the eardrum
Conductive hearing loss usually only causes the "volume" of sounds to appear lower. It may be more difficult to hear faint sounds and loud sounds might not seem as loud as usual. Clearing excessive wax or fluids out of the ear canal can often remove conductive hearing loss. At HearingDirect.com, we are able to offer a number of key ear hygiene products such as ear cleansers and wax removers to help eradicate this type of hearing loss. In other cases, hearing aids can help correct this conductive hearing loss.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss occurs when people show symptoms of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. Mixed hearing loss commonly occurs when the ear sustains a trauma and symptoms can appear gradually over time. For example, a conductive hearing loss symptom could result in that of a sensorineural symptom and vice versa.
Treatment will depend primarily on whether the hearing loss is more sensorineural or conductive. If conductive hearing loss is more present, surgical methods and other medical treatment such as wax removal may help repair the ear back to normal. Whereas if the hearing loss is showing more sensorineural symptoms, then a hearing aid may be a more manageable approach.
For more information read: What is the difference between Conductive and Sensorineural Hearing Loss?
Other Types of Hearing Loss
Alongside the three core types of hearing loss, there are a number of other causes which could result in diminished hearing or loss of hearing.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss: A common cause of hearing loss is caused by prolonged exposure to harmful sounds or a sudden intense noise like an explosion. Most people with noise-induced hearing loss could have avoided it. Excessive noise exposure can happen unknowingly at home in the form of super loud music or as a by-product of a workplace environment. The nature of noise-induced hearing loss is predominantly sensorineural, and at present, can only be helped and not cured.
Sudden Hearing Loss: Sudden hearing loss is mostly related to sensorineural hearing loss. There are four main possible causes of sudden hearing loss (SHL): circulatory anomalies, viral infection of the cochlea, irregularities of the cochlear membrane and autoimmune disorders.
There are a number of other notable causes such as:
- Earwax buildup
- Excess fluid in the ear
- Ear infection
- Bone damage
- Artery blockage
However, the most common cause of SHL is a disturbance of the cochlear blood flow, which is why it is important to seek medical help immediately in the case of Sudden Hearing Loss.
Ear Fullness: Ear fullness is when the ears feel clogged, blocked, congested or stuffed and the sensation can heighten when yawning and eating. It can be caused by a shift in air pressure, cold or flu and ear fullness is easily treatable. The condition is not directly associated with hearing loss. Some prominent symptoms include muffled hearing, reduced hearing or temporary hearing loss.
Severity of Hearing Loss
Medically speaking we can break hearing loss down into four main categories according to the degree or severity of the loss. A 'normal' person's hearing is a standard measure of hearing taken from thousands of readings. We measure Hearing loss by recording the amount of decibels lost from that 'normal' standard at a set range of frequencies.
- Mild Hearing Loss is a loss of 20-39 dB
- Moderate Hearing Loss is a loss of 40-69 dB
- Severe Hearing Loss is a loss of 70-90 dB
- Profound Hearing Loss is a loss of greater than 90 dB
Severe and Profound Hearing Loss may need specialist treatment. Our hearing aids at HearingDirect at aimed at people who have mild or moderate hearing loss.
At HearingDirect, we have created our very own online hearing test so you can test your hearing for free and in the comfort of your own home.
All you will need is a few free minutes and some ear or headphones. Once the test is complete, you will get your results instantly via email and based on the outcome of the hearing test, you may be encouraged to take further action.
To learn more about hearing loss, read our Guide to Hearing.
About Hearing Direct
We are one of the world's leading hearing aid specialists. HearingDirect offers a wide range of affordable products, and information resources to help improve the quality of life for the hard of hearing.
- Hearing aids,
- Accessories such as earplugs,
- and amplified devices such as super loud alarm clocks and amplified phones.
Author: Joan McKechnie
After qualifying as a Speech-Language Pathologist and Audiologist Joan has spent most of her 20 year career in hearing-care related roles. She has a wealth of experience within the hearing aid and hearing rehabilitation fields and has worked in manufacturing environments with two hearing aid companies helping to develop products and roll out new technologies. Joan has been involved with Hearing Direct since its launch and enjoys the online retail environment which seeks to provide easier access to hearing products and accessories. She is HCPC registered. Read Joan's full bio here.