Have you ever seen a t-shirt promoted as “one size fits all” but when you went to put it on, you were disheartened to find that it didn’t fit at all? That’s really frustrating. The truth is that there’s virtually nothing in the world that is truly a “one size fits all”. That’s not only relevant with clothing, it’s also true 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 are their causes? Well, that’s exactly what we intend to find out.
There are different forms of hearing loss
Because hearing is such an intricate mental and physical process, no two people’s hearing loss will be exactly the same. Maybe you hear perfectly well at the office, but not in a noisy restaurant. Or maybe you only have problems with high-pitched voices or low-pitched sounds. Your loss of hearing can take a wide range of shapes.
The root cause of your hearing loss will determine how it manifests. Any number of things can go wrong with an organ as intricate as the ear.
How your hearing works
Before you can thoroughly understand how hearing loss works, or what degree of hearing loss calls for a hearing aid, it’s practical to consider how things are supposed to work, how your ear is typically supposed to work. Check out this breakdown:
- Outer ear: This is the visible portion of the ear. It’s where you’re initially exposed to a “sound”. The shape of your ear helps funnel those sounds into your middle ear (where they are further processed).
- Middle ear: The eardrum and several tiny bones are what your middle ear is composed of (yes, you have bones in your ear, but they are admittedly very, very tiny).
- Inner ear: Your stereocilia are found hear. Vibration is detected by these fragile hairs which are then transformed into electrical energy. Your cochlea helps here, also. Our brain then receives this electrical energy.
- Auditory nerve: This nerve sends these electrical signals to the brain.
- Auditory system: From your brain to your outer ear, the “auditory system” includes all of the parts discussed above. The overall hearing process depends on all of these components working in concert with each other. Typically, in other words, the entire system will be affected if any one part has issues.
Hearing loss varieties
Because there are multiple parts of your auditory system, there are (as a result) numerous forms of hearing loss. Which type you develop will depend on the underlying cause.
The prevalent types of hearing loss include:
- Conductive hearing loss: This form of hearing loss happens because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, frequently in the middle or outer ear. Normally, fluid or inflammation is the reason for this blockage (this typically happens, for example, when you have an ear infection). A growth in the ear can occasionally cause conductive hearing loss. Once the blockage is eliminated, hearing will normally return to normal.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: When the tiny hairs that pick up sound, called stereocilia, are damaged by loud noise they are normally destroyed. This type of hearing loss is generally chronic, progressive, and irreversible. Because of this, individuals are normally encouraged to prevent this type of hearing loss by wearing hearing protection. If you’re dealing with sensorineural hearing loss, it can still be managed by devices like hearing aids.
- Mixed hearing loss: It’s also possible to experience a combination of sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. Because the hearing loss is coming from numerous different places, this can sometimes be difficult to treat.
- Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: It’s fairly rare for someone to develop ANSD. When sound isn’t effectively transmitted from your ear to your brain, this kind of hearing loss occurs. ANSD can normally be treated with a device known as a cochlear implant.
Each type of hearing loss requires a different treatment method, but the desired results are usually the same: to improve or preserve your ability to hear.
Variations on hearing loss kinds
And there’s more. Any of these common types of hearing loss can be further categorized (and more specifically). Here are a few examples:
- Acquired hearing loss: Hearing loss that develops as a consequence of outside forces (like damage).
- Congenital hearing loss: Hearing loss you were born with.
- High frequency vs. low frequency: Your hearing loss can be classified as one or the other depending on what frequency range is getting lost.
- Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to speak, it’s called pre-lingual. If your hearing loss developed after you learned to talk, it’s called post-lingual. This can have ramifications for treatment and adaptation.
- Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either going through hearing loss in just one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
- Fluctuating or stable: Fluctuating hearing loss refers to hearing loss that appears and disappears. If your hearing loss stays at about the same levels, it’s called stable.
- 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.
- Progressive or sudden: Hearing loss that slowly worsens over time is called “progressive”. Hearing loss that appears or presents immediately is called “sudden”.
That might seem like a lot, and it is. But your hearing loss will be more successfully treated when we’re able to use these classifications.
Time to get a hearing exam
So how can you tell what type, and what sub-type, of hearing loss you have? Self-diagnosis of hearing loss isn’t, regrettably, something that’s at all accurate. For instance, is your cochlea working correctly, how would you know?
But that’s what hearing tests are for! It’s like when you have a check engine light on in your car and you bring it to a skilled auto technician. We can hook you up to a wide variety of machines, and help determine what type of hearing loss you have.
So contact us today and make an appointment to find out what’s going on.