Have you ever bought one of those “one size fits all” t-shirts only to be dismayed (and shocked) when the shirt does not, in fact, fit as advertised? That’s truly aggravating. There aren’t actually very many “one size fits all” with anything in the real world. That’s a fact with t-shirts and it’s also true with medical conditions, like hearing loss. This can be accurate for many reasons.
So what causes hearing loss? And what’s the most prevalent type of hearing loss? Well, that’s exactly what we intend to explore.
There are different types of hearing loss
Because hearing is such an intricate cognitive and physical operation, no two people’s hearing loss will be precisely the same. Perhaps you hear perfectly well at the office, but not in a crowded restaurant. Or perhaps you only have difficulty with high or low-pitched sounds. There are numerous forms that your hearing loss can take.
The root cause of your hearing loss will determine how it manifests. Because your ear is a rather complex little organ, there are any number of things that can go wrong.
How does hearing work?
It’s useful to get an idea of how hearing is supposed to work before we can understand what level of hearing loss calls for a hearing aid. Check out this breakdown:
- Outer ear: This is the part of the ear that you can see. It’s where you are first exposed to a “sound”. The shape of your ear helps direct those sounds into your middle ear (where they are processed further).
- Middle ear: The middle ear comprises your eardrum and several 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 tiny hairs pick up on vibrations and start converting those vibrations into electrical signals. Your cochlea helps here, too. This electrical energy is then carried to your brain.
- Auditory nerve: This nerve is located in your ear, and it’s responsible for channeling and sending this electrical energy towards your brain.
- Auditory system: All of the elements listed above, from your brain to your outer ear, are elements of your “auditory system”. The total hearing process depends on all of these parts working in unison with one another. In other words, the system is interconnected, so any problem in one area will typically impact the performance of the whole system.
Hearing loss varieties
There are numerous types of hearing loss because there are numerous parts of the ear. The root cause of your hearing loss will determine which kind of hearing loss you experience.
Here are some of the most prevalent causes:
- Conductive hearing loss: This type of hearing loss happens because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, frequently in the outer or middle ear. Usually, fluid or inflammation is the cause of this blockage (when you have an ear infection, for example, this typically occurs). A growth in the ear can sometimes cause conductive hearing loss. Typically, with conductive hearing loss, your hearing will go back to normal when the blockage is gone.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: When the fragile hairs that pick up sound, called stereocilia, are damaged by loud noise they are usually destroyed. This type of hearing loss is generally chronic, progressive, and permanent. As a result, individuals are usually encouraged to avoid this kind of hearing loss by using ear protection. Even though sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, it can be successfully managed with hearing aids.
- Mixed hearing loss: It’s also possible to have a combination of sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. This can often be challenging to treat because the hearing loss is coming from different places.
- Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: ANSD is a relatively rare condition. When sound isn’t properly transmitted from your ear to your brain, this type of hearing loss occurs. ANSD can usually be managed with a device called a cochlear implant.
Each type of hearing loss requires a different treatment strategy, but the desired results are usually the same: to improve or preserve your ability to hear.
Hearing loss kinds have variations
And that isn’t all! We can analyze and categorize these common forms of hearing loss even more specifically. For instance, hearing loss can also be classified as:
- Congenital hearing loss: If you’re born with hearing loss it’s known as “congenital”.
- 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 about the same levels, it’s called stable.
- Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either going through hearing loss in just one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
- Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to talk, it’s known as pre-lingual. If your hearing loss developed after you learned to talk, it’s known as post-lingual. This will impact the way hearing loss is managed.
- High frequency vs. low frequency: You may have more trouble hearing high or low-frequency sounds. Your hearing loss can then be categorized as one or the other.
- Symmetrical or asymmetrical: If your hearing loss is the same in both ears it’s symmetrical and if it’s not the same in both ears it’s asymmetrical.
- Acquired hearing loss: Hearing loss that happens as a consequence of outside forces (such as damage).
- Progressive or sudden: Hearing loss that slowly worsens over time is called “progressive”. Hearing loss that appears or shows up immediately is known as “sudden”.
That might seem like a lot, and it is. The point is that each categorization helps us more precisely and effectively address your symptoms.
Time to get a hearing exam
So how can you be sure which of these categories applies to your hearing loss scenario? Self-diagnosis of hearing loss isn’t, regrettably, something that’s at all accurate. For instance, is your cochlea functioning correctly, 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 establish what type of hearing loss you’re dealing with.
So call us today and make an appointment to find out what’s going on.