You may be seeing more and more headlines about hearing loss and its effects. Hearing loss has become a common diagnosis and now affects almost 40 million Americans, but did you know there are several different kinds of hearing loss? And while there are three general types of hearing loss, the condition is often as unique as the individual it affects, from how extensive it is to frequencies that can be heard to how it manifests in each ear.
Here’s what you need to know about the three types of hearing loss and how they can be treated:
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of permanent hearing loss and occurs when there is damage to the inner ear or the hearing nerve. Often this damage is to the hair cells within the ear that are so vital to hearing. This kind of hearing loss may be due to aging, noise, an injury or illness, genetic conditions or ototoxic medications such as over-the-counter pain and inflammation reducers. Unlike other types of hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss is often not reversible or treatable through sugary or medicine. This type of hearing loss is most commonly managed with the use of hearing aids to help improve hearing ability.
Conductive Hearing Loss
The second type of hearing loss is when some or all sound waves are unable to travel from the outer or middle ear to the inner ear preventing some degree of hearing. In these cases, there may be a buildup of earwax, a foreign object or fluid blocking the sound waves. Sometimes there is an ear infection, a bone abnormality or a damaged eardrum preventing the sound waves from reaching the inner ear.
Depending on the cause of the conductive hearing loss, it may or may not be reversible through medication or medical procedures.
Mixed Hearing Loss
The final type of hearing loss is what is called mixed hearing loss. As the name implies, this kind of hearing loss is a combination of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. In these cases a combination of treatments may also be used to help regain at least some hearing, prevent further hearing loss and manage permanent hearing loss.
Whether your hearing loss comes on suddenly or so gradually that you hardly notice it, the most important first step is seeing a hearing health care provider for a hearing evaluation. During the hearing evaluation, your provider can determine the degree and type of hearing loss as well as if it is located in just one ear or both. From there, they will be able to determine treatment options, whether that is a medication or long-term management with hearing aids.
Don’t put off a hearing evaluation. The sooner you see a professional to determine if and what type of hearing loss you may have, the more options you have. A hearing healthcare provider can also guide you in managing your hearing loss and answer any questions you may have about types of hearing loss, hearing health, hearing evaluations or hearing aids.