What are the different types of hearing loss
Hearing occurs when your ears pick up a sound and translate it into information your brain can understand. This complex process involves three different areas of the hearing mechanism: the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. The below video explain this process:
If any of these areas are prevented from working effectively hearing loss occurs. In fact where the hearing loss occurs describes the type of hearing loss. Hearing loss is grouped into two main types, depending on which system is affected – conductive and sensorineural. A mixed hearing loss is where both types are present.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss is caused by obstructions or malfunctions in the outer and/or middle ear, impeding the mechanical transfer of sound to the inner ear. It can be caused by blockages, such as impacted ear wax, or by disorders that stop the middle ear’s ability to transfer sound, such as middle ear infections, malfunctions or damaged ear drums. This kind of damage results in lowered sound intensity (loudness) as the sound that reaches the inner ear is less intense and is at a lower volume than the original. Identifying and treating the cause of conductive hearing loss can result in a partial or complete improvement in hearing.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve and can be split into two parts. The sensory part refers to damage to the hair cells or inner ear fluids. The neural part refers to damage or degeneration of the nerves that transmit sound signals. It can be caused by exposure to loud noise, diseases such as meningitis and the aging process. In addition to reduced sound intensity, there is an element of distortion so sounds seem unclear, even if they are loud enough. Sensorineural hearing loss is usually considered to be permanent and irreversible. As this kind of hearing loss does not usually respond well to medical treatment, the main goal of intervention is the use of hearing aids to provide amplification.
The below video shows the most common cause of sensorineural hearing loss:
Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of the above types of hearing loss. The conductive loss may be responsive to treatment (such as clearing obstructions or treating a middle ear infection), but some degree of hearing loss is most likely to remain permanently. Hearing aids can be beneficial once the conductive aspect has been identified and treated.
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