Understanding Different Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. There are several types of hearing loss, each with different causes and intervention management options. In this blog post, we will discuss the most common types of hearing loss.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is the most common type of hearing loss. It is caused primarily by loss or damage to the sensory receptor cells in the inner ear or cochlea. The cochlea is responsible for converting sound waves into electrical signals that are sent to the brain. One can be born with SNHL, or it can be acquired during life. There are many potential causes, some of which are: certain medications; aging; exposure to excessively loud sounds; infections; other illnesses where hearing loss is a side effect (for example, Diabetes); genetics; structural changes in the nervous system; and physical trauma.

Symptoms of SNHL can include difficulty understanding speech, trouble hearing in noisy environments, and hearing loss in one or both ears. Once identified, improvements in managing the cause (such as better managed diabetes or reduced sound exposure) can be preventative for further loss. Other options to improve hearing may include treatment of underlying medical causes; amplification with hearing aids; cochlear implants; and an auditory training program to develop better processing skills.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss is caused by a blockage or damage to the outer or middle ear, prior to sound reaching the inner ear. This type of hearing loss is often (but not always) medically treatable, as it is most often caused by ear infections, fluid buildup, earwax buildup, or anatomical and mechanical problems with the structures of the ear canal and/or middle ear.

Symptoms of conductive hearing loss can include muffled or distorted sound, difficulty hearing soft sounds, and a feeling of fullness or blockage in the ear. Treatment options depend on the cause of the blockage and can include medication, surgery, or hearing aids, and is sometimes capable of complete hearing restoration.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. It occurs when there is damage to both the outer or middle ear, and the inner ear. This type of hearing loss can be caused by a combination of the causes mentioned in each previous type (SNHL and conductive hearing loss). Sometimes, conductive hearing losses that remain untreated, can progress into the inner ear and ultimately cause more permanent damage.

Symptoms of mixed hearing loss can include difficulty understanding speech, muffled or distorted sound, and hearing loss in one or both ears. Intervention options depend on the cause of the hearing loss and may include hearing aids, medication, or surgery.

Diagnosis Informs Support Needs

It is essential to identify the type of hearing loss and seek appropriate care. If you are experiencing hearing loss, it is important to consult with an audiologist who can help determine the cause of your hearing loss and develop a management plan that meets your specific needs. With the right strategy, many people with hearing loss can lead full, active lives.

At NB Hearing we are trained and experienced in the diagnosis and management of various hearing loss types and other conditions that affect hearing and balance. Contact any one of our Cape Town offices for patient-centred care and intervention.