Have you ever seen a t-shirt advertised 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 kind of a bummer, right? There aren’t really very many “one size fits all” with anything in the real world. That’s not only true with clothing, it’s also true with medical conditions such as hearing loss. This can be accurate for many reasons.
So what’s the cause of hearing loss? And what is the most common type of hearing loss? Well, that’s exactly what we intend to explore.
There are different kinds of hearing loss
Because hearing is such a complex mental and physical process, no two people’s hearing loss will be exactly the same. Maybe when you’re in a crowded restaurant you can’t hear very well, but at work, you hear fine. Or, perhaps specific frequencies of sound get lost. There are a wide variety of forms that your hearing loss can take.
How your hearing loss presents, in part, may be dictated by what’s causing your symptoms to begin with. Because your ear is a fairly complex little organ, there are any number of things that can go wrong.
How does hearing work?
Before you can completely understand how hearing loss works, or what degree of hearing loss calls for a hearing aid, it’s practical to think a bit about how things are supposed to work, how your ear is generally supposed to work. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Outer ear: This is the part of the ear that you can see. It’s the initial sound receiver. Sounds are effectively guided into your middle ear for further processing due to the shape of your outer ear.
- Middle ear: The middle ear consists of your eardrum and several tiny ear bones (yes, you have bones in your ear, but they are admittedly very, very tiny).
- Inner ear: This is where your stereocilia are found. Vibration is picked up by these delicate hairs which are then transformed into electrical signals. Your cochlea helps here, also. These electrical signals are then carried to your brain.
- Auditory nerve: This nerve directs 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. The overall hearing process depends on all of these parts working in unison with one another. Put simply, the system is interconnected, so any issue in one area will typically affect the performance of the whole system.
Types of hearing loss
Because there are multiple parts of your auditory system, there are (as a result) numerous types of hearing loss. The underlying cause of your hearing loss will determine which kind of hearing loss you develop.
Here are some of the most common 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. Normally, fluid or inflammation is the cause of this blockage (this typically happens, for instance, when you have an ear infection). In some cases, conductive hearing loss can be the result of a growth in the ear canal. Typically, with conductive hearing loss, your hearing will go back to normal as soon as the blockage is gone.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: When your ears are damaged by loud sound, the fragile hair cells which pick up sound, called stereocilia, are destroyed. This form of hearing loss is typically chronic, progressive, and irreversible. Because of this, individuals are normally encouraged to prevent this type of hearing loss by wearing ear protection. Even though sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, it can be successfully treated with hearing aids.
- Mixed hearing loss: It sometimes happens that a person will experience both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss at the same time. Because the hearing loss is coming from several different places, this can sometimes be difficult to treat.
- Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: ANSD is a rather 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 treat this type of hearing loss.
Each form of hearing loss calls for a different treatment strategy, but the desired results are often the same: improving your hearing ability.
Hearing loss types have variations
And that’s not all! We can break down and categorize these common types 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. Hearing loss is post-lingual when it develops after you learned to speak. This can have implications for treatment and adaptation.
- Progressive or sudden: You have “progressive” hearing loss if it gradually gets worse over time. If your hearing loss happens all at once, it’s called “sudden”.
- Acquired hearing loss: If you experience hearing loss as a result of external causes, like damage, it’s known as “acquired”.
- High frequency vs. low frequency: You might experience more difficulty hearing high or low-frequency sounds. Your hearing loss can then be categorized as one or the other.
- Symmetrical or asymmetrical: This tells you whether your hearing loss is equal in both ears or unequal in both ears.
- Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either experiencing hearing loss in just one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
- Congenital hearing loss: If you’re born with hearing loss it’s called “congenital”.
- Fluctuating or stable: Fluctuating hearing loss refers to hearing loss that comes and goes. Stable hearing loss stays at relatively the same level.
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.
A hearing test is in order
So how can you tell which of these categories applies to your hearing loss scenario? 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 working properly.
But you can get a hearing test to determine exactly what’s happening. Your loss of hearing is sort of like a “check engine” light. We can connect you to a wide range of machines, and help determine what type of hearing loss you’re dealing with.
So call us today and schedule an appointment to find out what’s going on.