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Understanding the Different Types of Hearing Loss

– 6 minute read

Concept by Iowa Hearing Explains Hearing Loss in Adults

The audiologists at Concept by Iowa Hearing understand how common it is for different types of hearing loss to affect adults throughout Iowa. Whether gradual or sudden, this health condition can be caused by a variety of factors, such as aging, exposure to loud noises, and underlying medical conditions. However, not all hearing loss is the same, and a person’s condition can be classified into one of three categories. Understanding them is essential in knowing which treatments or solutions can improve your hearing. We ensure each patient is familiar with the three main categories of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive, and mixed. Doing so helps them understand how our guidance to manage their unique condition will allow them to hear better. Contact one of our hearing care centers for more information about free hearing tests.

What Is Sensorineural Hearing Loss?

Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve that connects the ear to the brain. It is the most common type and is often referred to as nerve-related hearing loss. A hearing test can determine the severity of this condition, which is usually permanent and cannot be reversed through medication or surgery.

Causes of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Since it is the most common form of hearing loss, many factors can cause it. Hearing loss is more prevalent in older adults; about one in three adults over 65 have some hearing loss, and that increases to one in two adults in people over 75. However, even younger adults are at risk. The most common causes of sensorineural hearing loss include:

  • Aging
  • Genetics
  • Exposure to sudden loud noise
  • Consistent exposure to noise during work or recreational activities
  • Ménière’s disease, which affects hearing and balance
  • Ototoxic medications
  • Underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes
  • Viral infections, like measles or mumps

Treatments for Sensorineural Hearing Loss

People with sensorineural hearing loss often benefit from hearing aids. A hearing aid amplifies sound, making it easier to hear. Modern technology and advanced hearing aids come with features that can filter out background noise and enhance speech clarity. Other technological benefits of newer devices include Bluetooth connectivity and control through smartphone and tablet apps. In severe cases of loss, cochlear implants might be recommended. Cochlear implants are electronic devices surgically implanted into the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. 

What Is Conductive Hearing Loss?

Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves cannot reach the inner ear due to a blockage or damage in the outer or middle ear. This hearing loss is often temporary and can usually be medically or surgically treated. This type is more common in children with recurring ear infections or, through curiosity, may have decided to put a foreign object into their ear canal.

Causes of Conductive Hearing Loss

Some type of blockage or foreign object causes conductive hearing loss. Since foreign objects can include just about anything, the list of causes could be limitless, but examples of typical cases are:

  • Frequent ear infections
  • Fluid buildup in the middle ear
  • Impacted earwax
  • Issues with the Eustachian tube
  • Benign tumors
  • Deformed ear canal
  • A hole in the eardrum

Treatments for Conductive Hearing Loss

The most common treatment option for conductive hearing loss is medical intervention. The process includes treating any underlying medical conditions, such as ear infections, or surgically repairing structural damage in the middle ear. In some cases, hearing aids may be recommended to amplify sound, especially when medical or surgical intervention is not possible.

What Is Mixed Hearing Loss?

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. In these cases, there is damage or a blockage in the outer/middle ear and the inner ear or auditory nerve. People with this type of hearing loss may have both a permanent and temporary condition. It can be possible to medically or surgically treat the conductive loss, but the sensorineural condition will remain.

Causes of Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss can occur in related events or be two separate health issues occurring at different times. Common causes of mixed hearing loss include:

  • A person with sensorineural hearing loss that has earwax buildup or fluid in the ear
  • Chronic ear infections that affect all three parts of the ear
  • Head trauma
  • Exposure to loud noise

Treatments for Mixed Hearing Loss

The treatment for mixed hearing loss will depend on the degree and cause of the damage. In some cases, medical or surgical intervention may be necessary. For mild to moderate hearing loss, hearing aids can be beneficial, while those with severe cases of hearing loss may need further surgical intervention, such as cochlear implants.

Find Treatment for Hearing Loss in Iowa

While understanding the different types of hearing loss is important, having a hearing test by audiologists like the team at Concept by Iowa Hearing is essential to finding the proper treatment for you or your family member. When your specific type of hearing loss is diagnosed, we can take appropriate steps to manage it. If you are experiencing hearing difficulties, don’t hesitate to seek help from one of our hearing care centers. We offer free hearing tests and evaluations, and with our virtual appointments, you can receive an assessment and test in the comfort of your home. Contact a hearing care center near you to schedule your free hearing test.

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