Understanding the Different Types of Hearing Loss
Forty-eight million Americans experience hearing loss. Before you can seek proper treatment, it is important to understand your specific type of hearing loss. There are three types: conductive, sensorineural and mixed; the causes and corresponding treatments are outlined below.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss describes problems with the ear canal, eardrum and middle ear (including the tiny bones it contains – the malleus, incus and stapes). This type of hearing loss has many potential causes, including:
- Malformation of the ear
- Fluid in the middle ear
- Otitis media (middle ear infection)
- Poor Eustachian tube function
- Perforated eardrum
- Impacted earwax
- Infection in the ear canal
- Foreign object in ear
- Otosclerosis (bone growths in middle ear)
Conductive hearing loss can be treated by combatting the underlying problem. For example, antibiotics and antifungal medications can be used to treat chronic ear infections, and tumors can be removed via surgery.
For malformations of the inner ear, plastic surgery can correct problems like congenital absence of ear canal or failure of ear canal to be open at birth.
Another option for conductive hearing loss is a bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA). These devices are surgically implanted in the mastoid bone behind the ear. Soundwaves are picked up by an external processor and converted into vibrations, which travel through the skull and jaw bones and stimulate the inner ear, bypassing the damaged portion of the ear.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss, also called nerve-related hearing loss, is caused by problems affecting the inner ear such as:
- Noise exposure
- Head trauma
- Autoimmune disorders
- Malformation of inner ear
- Meniere’s disease
The gold-standard of treatment for sensorineural hearing loss is hearing aids. Traditional hearing aids work by amplifying sounds to a volume that the inner ear can detect. Today’s devices have features such as rechargeable batteries, Bluetooth connectivity, automatic programming and feedback reduction.
For those with severe sensorineural hearing loss who do not benefit from traditional hearing aids, cochlear implants may be recommended. These are surgically-implanted devices that aid in speech understanding when hearing aids aren’t powerful enough.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss is just what you’d expect – a combination of conductive and sensorineural loss.
Audiologists typically treat the conductive component first, especially if a malformation would make it difficult to wear a hearing aid. A combination of treatments listed above is likely necessary for best outcomes.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the experts at San Diego Hearing Center today.