Understanding the way in which we hear is the starting point in fully understanding the many reasons for hearing loss and the different types of hearing loss. Including the eardrum and the ear canal, the outer ear is the section of the ear on the exterior of the head which receives sounds. The middle ear includes the eardrum as well, but also is comprised of the ossicles (three tiny bones that convert sound vibrations into information and convey them to the inner ear). The inner ear consists of a snail-shaped organ known as the cochlea, two semicircular canals that help us keep our balance, and a set of acoustic nerves which connect to the brain. The hearing system is an incredibly elaborate mechanism, and problems may occur in any area of it that produce hearing loss. Four distinct classifications constitute what we mean when we refer to “hearing loss.”
Something interfering with the transmission of sound through the outer or middle ear is classified conductive hearing loss. Hearing aids can manage conductive hearing loss if medication or surgery cannot address it.
The second classification is sensorineural hearing loss, which is caused by damage in the inner ear – to the cochlea, to the hair cells lining the inner ear, or to the acoustic nerves themselves. Hearing aids are usually the best option for treating sensorineural hearing loss, as most cases are not successfully remedied with medication or surgery.
The third classification is mixed hearing loss, which is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, and which can often be treated using the same combinations of surgery, medication, and hearing aids.
Damage to the inner ear or auditory nerves preventing a message from being understood by our brain that entered the ear normally, is called central hearing loss.
All hearing loss classifications include sub-categories for the degree of hearing loss and are classified as mid-level, moderate, severe, or profound. Additional sub-categories include whether the hearing loss occurs in one ear or both ears (unilateral vs. bilateral), whether it occurs at the same degree in both ears (symmetrical vs. asymmetrical), and whether the hearing loss happened before or after the person learned to speak (pre-lingual vs post-lingual). Other sub-categories of hearing loss include progressive or sudden (occurring gradually or all at once), fluctuating or stable (getting better at times, or staying the same), and congenital or acquired (present at birth or developing later in life). If you suffer from any of these forms of hearing loss, our specialists can help to diagnose it and then to treat it most effectively.