Have you ever seen a t-shirt promoted as “one size fits all” but when you went to try it on, you were discouraged to find that it didn’t fit at all? It’s sort of a bummer, right? The truth is that there’s almost nothing in the world that is really a “one size fits all”. That’s not only relevant with clothing, it’s also true with medical conditions like hearing loss. This can be accurate for many reasons.
So what are the most prevalent kinds of hearing loss and what are their causes? Well, that’s precisely what we intend to find out.
Hearing loss comes in different kinds
Everyone’s hearing loss situation will be as unique as they are. Perhaps when you’re in a noisy restaurant you can’t hear very well, but when you’re at work, you hear fine. Or perhaps you only have trouble with high-pitched voices or low-pitched sounds. Your loss of hearing can take a wide range of forms.
How your hearing loss shows up, in part, could be determined by what causes your symptoms in the first place. Because your ear is a fairly complex little organ, there are any number of things that can go wrong.
How does hearing work?
It’s useful to get an idea of how hearing is supposed to work before we can figure out what level of hearing loss calls for a hearing aid. Here’s how it breaks down:
- 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 processed further).
- Middle ear: The eardrum and some tiny bones are what your middle ear is composed of (Yes, there are some tiny little bones in there).
- Inner ear: This is where your stereocilia are found. These tiny hairs pick up on vibrations and begin translating those vibrations into electrical energy. Your cochlea helps here, also. Our brain then receives these electrical signals.
- Auditory nerve: This nerve sends these electrical signals to the brain.
- Auditory system: From your brain to your outer ear, the “auditory system” encompasses all of the parts discussed above. It’s essential to understand that all of these parts are constantly working together and in unison with each other. In other words, the system is interconnected, so any problem in one area will typically impact the performance of the entire system.
Varieties of hearing loss
There are multiple types of hearing loss because there are multiple parts of the ear. The underlying cause of your hearing loss will determine which kind of hearing loss you experience.
Here are some of the most prevalent causes:
- Conductive hearing loss: When there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, often the middle or outer ear, this form of hearing loss happens. Usually, fluid or inflammation is the reason for this blockage (when you have an ear infection, for instance, this usually happens). A growth in the ear can occasionally cause conductive hearing loss. Once the blockage is eliminated, hearing will usually go back to normal.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: When the fragile hairs that pick up sound, called stereocilia, are damaged by loud noise they are normally destroyed. Usually, this is a chronic, progressive and irreversible type of hearing loss. Typically, individuals are encouraged to wear ear protection to avoid this type of hearing loss. If you have sensorineural hearing loss, it can still be treated by devices like hearing aids.
- Mixed hearing loss: It sometimes happens that somebody will experience both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss simultaneously. This can often be challenging to treat because the hearing loss is coming from different places.
- Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: ANSD is a fairly rare condition. When sound isn’t properly transmitted from your ear to your brain, this kind of hearing loss occurs. A device called a cochlear implant is normally used to manage this type of hearing loss.
The desired results are the same even though the treatment option will differ for each type of hearing loss: improving your hearing ability.
Variations on hearing loss types
And that isn’t all! Any of these normal kinds of hearing loss can be further categorized (and more specifically). For instance, hearing loss can also be classified as:
- Symmetrical or asymmetrical: This tells you whether your hearing loss is the same in both ears or unequal in both ears.
- High frequency vs. low frequency: Your hearing loss can be classified as one or the other depending on what frequency range is getting lost.
- Fluctuating or stable: If your hearing loss has a tendency to come and go, it might be referred to as fluctuating. If your hearing loss remains at roughly the same levels, it’s known as stable.
- Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to speak, it’s known as pre-lingual. Hearing loss is post-lingual when it develops after you learned to speak. This will impact the way hearing loss is treated.
- Progressive or sudden: Hearing loss that gradually gets worse over time is called “progressive”. Hearing loss that appears or shows up immediately is known as “sudden”.
- Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either experiencing hearing loss in only one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
- Acquired hearing loss: If you develop hearing loss due to outside forces, such as damage, it’s known as “acquired”.
- Congenital hearing loss: Hearing loss you were born with.
If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. But your hearing loss will be more effectively managed when we’re able to use these categories.
A hearing exam is in order
So how can you be sure which of these categories applies to your hearing loss situation? Unfortunately, hearing loss isn’t really something you can self-diagnose with much accuracy. It will be difficult for you to know, for example, whether your cochlea is functioning correctly.
But that’s what hearing examinations are for! 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 help you identify what type of hearing loss you have by hooking you up to a wide range of modern technology.
So the best way to determine what’s happening is to make an appointment with us as soon as you can!