Hearing loss problem is the result of sound signals not reaching the brain. This loss can affect people of all ages and can be caused by many different factors. Hearing loss is classified into three different types depending on which part of the ear is affected. Below are some basic pieces of information to help you better understand the various kinds of hearing loss.

Conductive hearing loss

This type of hearing loss problem occurs when there is damage or blockage in the outer or middle ear. Individuals with this kind of hearing loss often find that turning up the volume of the television or radio is all it takes to improve their ability to hear, i.e., conductive hearing loss causes the "volume" of sounds to seem lower. This can result in sound not being conducted appropriately via the ear canal to the eardrum, or from the eardrum through the ossicles of the middle ear to the inner ear. Some causes of this type of hearing loss include:

  • Perforated eardrum
  • Fluid in the middle ear
  • Presence of a foreign body
  • Complete earwax blockage
  • Infection in the ear canal
  • Poor Eustachian tube function
  • Outer or middle ear infections
  • Repeated ear infections and allergies
  • Abnormal bone growth involving the ossicles
  • Fluid build-up in the middle ear from a cold or flu
  • Malformation of the middle ear, outer ear or ear canal

Medical interventions are often used to treat conductive hearing loss, while hearing instruments may be a recommended treatment option to compensate for any remaining hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss

The sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of permanent hearing loss that occurs when there is either cochlea or hearing nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain. People experiencing this type of hearing loss have difficulty with sound volume. Sounds may seem muffled, people may seem to mumble, difficulty hearing in background noise, ringing in the ears or that others do not speak clearly. Some of the potential causes of sensorineural hearing loss include:

  • Ototoxic drugs
  • Head trauma
  • Malformation of the inner ear
  • Exposure to loud noise
  • Injury to the head
  • Genetic or hereditary hearing loss
  • Deterioration caused by age
  • Medicines that damage the ear (ototoxic)
  • Structural malformation of the inner ear
  • Illnesses, such as measles, meningitis, and others

Sensorineural hearing loss treatment options include using hearing aids or cochlear implants in the most severe cases.

Mixed hearing loss

This happens when a person has both sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. Mixed hearing loss can occur if there is damage or blockage to the middle or outer ear as well as impairment in the cochlea or auditory nerve in the inner ear.  The sensorineural component is permanent, while the conductive component can either be permanent or temporary.

A mixed hearing loss is caused by a combination of factors that contribute to the sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. Treatment will depend on whether the hearing loss is more conductive or sensorineural. You can treat mixed hearing loss with hearing aids and medical management.