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Type and Cause of Hearing Loss

Each narrative about hearing loss is distinct. Your hearing loss could impair one ear or two. Also, it might be caused by an issue in the middle, outer or inner ear or a range of origins. Discovering which type of hearing loss, or the cause of your hearing loss, will be helpful as you seek out help from a hearing healthcare professional. 

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

For sensorineural hearing loss, the patient suffers from damage within the inner ear (cochlea) and acoustic nerve. Injury to ear tissues is caused by excessive exposure to loud sounds, diseases (meningitis), and ototoxic medicines; this may also occur because of genetics or aging in general. The sensorineural hearing loss remains irreversible, while treatments might involve employing cochlear implants or hearing aids.

Conductive Hearing Loss

A conductive hearing loss happens when an object stops sound from traveling through to the middle or outer ear, then to the inner ear. This might happen due to earwax or fluid building up within the ear canal, or once there is an injury to the eardrum or the bones within the middle ear (ossicles). There could be inherent congenital disabilities that prevent sound waves from traveling into the ear to reach the acoustic nerve, like atresia or microtia. A person with conductive hearing loss may access many treatment options based on the personal diagnosis. Treatments can involve surgery to rectify structural abnormalities, surgical procedures for removing blockages or using hearing aids, cochlear implants, or bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA). 

Mixed Hearing Loss

In certain situations, the patient might be afflicted by both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. In such cases, hearing gets diagnosed as a mixed hearing loss. Mixed hearing loss involves both the inner and middle or outer ear, and thus, it may result in a more severe hearing loss. Treatments can range according to the degree of hearing impairment. However, cochlear implants and hearing aids might be prescribed to supplement a surgical procedure. 

Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder

Occasionally, sound can enter an ear to hit the acoustic nerve; however, there is an issue with the sound being transmitted over to the brain. Such hearing loss is termed auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder (ANSD). ANSD might arise from a range of causes. In certain situations, the hair cells from the inner ear get injured and become incapable of fully transmitting sound information to the brain. Occasionally a genetic mutation serves as the source of hearing loss or some injuries inflicted upon auditory nerves can result in ANSD. Patients with ANSD might appear to have normal hearing sensitivity in a hearing assessment; however, they might struggle to comprehend spoken words. In certain situations, a cochlear implant or hearing aid assisted by a hearing-assistive technology (HAT) system may mitigate the negative impact of such hearing loss. But, in more severe cases where the patient struggles with comprehending speech, the use of a visual communication method, including the picture exchange communication system (PECS) or sign language, is recommended.

Degree of Hearing Loss

A commonly occurring type of hearing loss is sensorineural. This is a permanent hearing loss that happens once there has been an injury to the tiny hair-like cells of the inner ear, termed as stereocilia, or the auditory nerve, that weakens or prevents the transfer of nerve signals to the brain. A lower incidence type of hearing loss is conductive hearing loss which happens when there are obstructions or injuries to the middle or outer ear that stops sound from traveling to the inner ear. Conductive hearing loss might be permanent or temporary, based upon the cause.