Have you ever purchased 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 a fact with t-shirts and it’s also true with medical conditions, such as hearing loss. This can be accurate for many reasons.
So what are the most prevalent types of hearing loss and what causes them? Let’s see what we can find out!
There are different forms of hearing loss
Everyone’s hearing loss situation will be as individual as they are. Perhaps you hear just fine at the office, but not in a crowded restaurant. Or perhaps you only have difficulty with high-pitched voices or low-pitched sounds. There are numerous forms that your hearing loss can take.
The root cause of your hearing loss will determine how it manifests. Because your ear is a rather complex little organ, there are lots of things that can go wrong.
How your hearing works
Before you can completely 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 generally supposed to work. Check out this breakdown:
- Outer ear: This is the part of the ear that you can see. It’s the initial sound receiver. The shape of your ear helps direct those sounds into your middle ear (where they are further processed).
- Middle ear: The middle ear is composed of your eardrum and a few tiny ear bones (Yes, there are some tiny little bones in there).
- Inner ear: Your stereocilia are found hear. Vibration is picked up by these delicate hairs which are then transformed into electrical signals. Your cochlea plays a part in this also. Our brain then receives this electrical energy.
- Auditory nerve: This nerve is located in your ear, and it’s responsible for transmitting and sending this electrical energy to your brain.
- Auditory system: From your brain to your outer ear, the “auditory system” includes all of the elements discussed above. The total hearing process depends on all of these elements working in unison with each other. Put simply, the system is interconnected, so any problem in one area will usually affect the performance of the entire system.
Hearing loss varieties
There are numerous types of hearing loss because there are numerous parts of the ear. The root cause of your hearing loss will determine which type of hearing loss you develop.
The common types of hearing loss include:
- Conductive hearing loss: This type 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 (when you have an ear infection, for example, this typically happens). A growth in the ear can sometimes cause conductive hearing loss. Once the obstruction is eliminated, hearing will normally go back to normal.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: When the tiny hairs that pick up sound, called stereocilia, are damaged by loud noise they are normally destroyed. Usually, this is a chronic, progressive and permanent form of hearing loss. Typically, individuals are encouraged to wear ear protection to avoid this type of hearing loss. 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 have 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 manage.
- Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: ANSD is a relatively rare condition. It happens when the cochlea doesn’t properly transmit sounds from your ear to your brain. ANSD can normally be treated with a device called a cochlear implant.
The desired results are the same even though the treatment solution will vary for each type of hearing loss: improving your hearing ability.
Hearing loss types have variations
And there’s more. We can analyze and categorize these common forms of hearing loss even more specifically. For instance, hearing loss can also be classified as:
- Pre-lingual or post-lingual: Hearing loss is known as pre-lingual when it develops before you learned to speak. If your hearing loss developed after you learned to speak, it’s called post-lingual. This can have implications for treatment and adaptation.
- Symmetrical or asymmetrical: This tells you whether your hearing loss is equal in both ears or unequal in both ears.
- Fluctuating or stable: Fluctuating hearing loss describes hearing loss that appears and disappears. If your hearing loss stays at around the same levels, it’s called stable.
- Progressive or sudden: Hearing loss that gradually gets worse over time is called “progressive”. Hearing loss that erupts or shows up instantly is called “sudden”.
- Acquired hearing loss: Hearing loss that develops as a result of outside causes (such as damage).
- Congenital hearing loss: Hearing loss you were born with.
- Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either going through hearing loss in only one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
- High frequency vs. low frequency: Your hearing loss can be categorized as one or the other depending on which frequency range is getting lost.
That might seem like a lot, and it is. The point is that each categorization helps us more precisely and effectively treat your symptoms.
Time to get a hearing exam
So how can you be sure which of these classifications pertains 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 instance, 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 take 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’re dealing with.
So contact us today and schedule an appointment to find out what’s going on.