Have you ever bought one of those “one size fits all” t-shirts only to be dismayed (and shocked) when the shirt doesn’t, in fact, fit as advertised? That’s really annoying. There aren’t actually 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 like hearing loss. There can be many reasons why it happens.
So what causes hearing loss? And what’s the most prevalent type of hearing loss? Let’s see what we can find out!
Hearing loss comes in different kinds
Everyone’s hearing loss scenario will be as individual as they are. Perhaps you hear perfectly well at the office, but not in a noisy restaurant. Or, maybe certain frequencies of sound get lost. There are a wide variety of forms that your hearing loss can take.
How your hearing loss shows up, in part, could be dictated by what causes your symptoms to begin with. Lots of things can go wrong with an organ as intricate as the ear.
How does hearing work?
It’s helpful to get an idea of how hearing is supposed to work before we can understand what degree of hearing loss requires a hearing aid. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Outer ear: This is the part of the ear that’s visible. It’s where you’re initially exposed to a “sound”. Sounds are efficiently funneled into your middle ear for further processing by the shape of your outer ear.
- Middle ear: The middle ear consists of your eardrum and a few tiny ear bones (yes, you have bones in your ear, but they are admittedly very, very tiny).
- Inner ear: Your stereocilia are found hear. These fragile hairs detect vibrations and begin translating those vibrations into electrical energy. Your cochlea helps here, also. This electrical energy is then carried to your brain.
- Auditory nerve: This nerve directs these electrical signals to the brain.
- Auditory system: All of the parts listed above, from your brain to your outer ear, are elements of your “auditory system”. It’s essential to understand that all of these elements are constantly working together and in unison with one another. Usually, in other words, the entire system will be impacted if any one part has problems.
Varieties of hearing loss
There are multiple types of hearing loss because there are numerous parts of the ear. Which type you experience will depend on the root cause.
The common types of hearing loss include:
- Conductive hearing loss: This type of hearing loss occurs because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, frequently in the middle or outer ear. Normally, this blockage is due to fluid or inflammation (this typically happens, for example, when you have an ear infection). Sometimes, conductive hearing loss can be the result of a growth in the ear canal. When the obstruction is eliminated, hearing will normally return to normal.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: When the fragile hairs that detect sound, called stereocilia, are damaged by loud sound they are normally destroyed. Normally, this is a chronic, progressive and permanent form of hearing loss. As a result, 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 effectively managed with hearing aids.
- Mixed hearing loss: It occasionally happens that someone will experience both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss at the same time. Because the hearing loss is coming from numerous different places, this can sometimes be difficult to treat.
- Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: ANSD is a rather rare condition. It takes place when the cochlea doesn’t properly transmit sounds from your ear to your brain. A device known as a cochlear implant is usually used to manage this type of hearing loss.
The desired results are the same even though the treatment option will differ for each form of hearing loss: improving your hearing ability.
Variations on hearing loss kinds
And that’s not all! We can analyze and categorize these common forms of hearing loss even more specifically. For example, hearing loss can also be classified as:
- 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 what frequency range is getting lost.
- Acquired hearing loss: If you develop hearing loss as a result of external forces, such as damage, it’s called “acquired”.
- Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to speak, it’s called pre-lingual. If your hearing loss developed after you learned to talk, it’s called post-lingual. This will impact the way hearing loss is addressed.
- Symmetrical or asymmetrical: If your hearing loss is the same in both ears it’s symmetrical and if it isn’t the same in both ears it’s asymmetrical.
- Progressive or sudden: You have “progressive” hearing loss if it gradually worsens over time. Hearing loss that appears or shows up instantly is called “sudden”.
- Fluctuating or stable: If your hearing loss tends to come and go, it may be referred to as fluctuating. If your hearing loss stays at roughly the same levels, it’s called stable.
- Congenital hearing loss: If you’re born with hearing loss it’s called “congenital”.
That might seem like a lot, and it is. The point is that each classification helps us more precisely and effectively manage your symptoms.
Time to have a hearing test
So how do you know what type, and what sub-type, of hearing loss you have? Unfortunately, hearing loss isn’t really something you can accurately diagnose by yourself. For instance, is your cochlea functioning properly, how would you know?
But that’s what hearing exams are for! It’s like when you have a check engine light on in your car and you take it to a qualified auto technician. We can hook you up to a wide range of machines, and help identify what type of hearing loss you have.
So give us a call today and make an appointment to find out what’s going on.