Have you ever seen a t-shirt promoted as “one size fits all” but when you went to put it on, you were disheartened to find that it didn’t fit at all? That’s really aggravating. There aren’t really very many “one size fits all” with anything in the real world. That’s not only relevant with clothing, it’s also true with medical conditions such as hearing loss. There can be numerous reasons why it occurs.
So what causes hearing loss? And what is the most prevalent kind of hearing loss? Well, that’s exactly what we intend to explore.
There are different types of hearing loss
Everybody’s hearing loss scenario will be as unique as they are. Maybe when you’re in a crowded restaurant you can’t hear very well, but at work, you hear just fine. Or, maybe certain frequencies of sound get lost. There are a wide variety of forms that your hearing loss can take.
How your hearing loss shows up, in part, may be dictated by what’s causing your symptoms in the first place. Because your ear is a fairly complex little organ, there are any number of things that can go wrong.
How does hearing work?
It’s helpful to get an idea of how hearing is supposed to work before we can determine what degree of hearing loss calls for a hearing aid. Check out this breakdown:
- Outer ear: This is the visible portion of the ear. It’s the initial sound receiver. Sounds are efficiently funneled into your middle ear for further processing due to the shape of your outer ear.
- Middle ear: The middle ear is composed of your eardrum and a few tiny ear bones (Yes, there are some tiny little bones in there).
- Inner ear: This is where your stereocilia are found. These delicate hairs detect vibrations and begin translating those vibrations into electrical energy. Your cochlea plays a role in this too. This electrical energy is then carried to your brain.
- Auditory nerve: This nerve is inside of your ear, and it’s responsible for channeling and sending this electrical energy to your brain.
- Auditory system: From your brain to your outer ear, the “auditory system” includes all of the elements discussed above. It’s essential to recognize that all of these parts are constantly working together and in concert with each other. Put simply, the system is interconnected, so any issue in one area will usually impact the performance of the entire system.
Hearing loss types
Because there are multiple parts of your auditory system, there are (as a result) numerous types of hearing loss. Which form you develop will depend on the underlying cause.
Here are some of the most prevalent causes:
- Conductive hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss happens because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, frequently in the outer or middle ear. Normally, this blockage is caused by fluid or inflammation (this typically happens, for instance, when you have an ear infection). A growth in the ear can sometimes cause conductive hearing loss. When the blockage is eliminated, hearing will usually go back to normal.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: When your ears are damaged by loud sound, the delicate hair cells which detect sound, called stereocilia, are destroyed. Usually, this is a chronic, progressive and permanent type of hearing loss. As a result, individuals are usually encouraged to prevent this type of hearing loss by wearing hearing protection. If you’re dealing with sensorineural hearing loss, it can still be managed by devices such as hearing aids.
- Mixed hearing loss: It’s also possible to experience a combination of sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. Because the hearing loss is coming from numerous different places, this can sometimes be challenging to manage.
- Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: ANSD is a fairly rare condition. When sound isn’t effectively transmitted from your ear to your brain, this kind of hearing loss happens. ANSD can usually be managed with a device known as a cochlear implant.
The desired results are the same even though the treatment option will differ for each form of hearing loss: improving your hearing ability.
Hearing loss types have variations
And that isn’t all! We can break down and categorize these common types of hearing loss even more specifically. For instance, hearing loss can also be classified as:
- Pre-lingual or post-lingual: Hearing loss is called pre-lingual when it develops before you learned to speak. If your hearing loss developed after you learned to speak, it’s known as post-lingual. This can have implications for treatment and adaptation.
- High frequency vs. low frequency: You might experience more trouble hearing high or low-frequency sounds. Your hearing loss can then be classified as one or the other.
- Acquired hearing loss: Hearing loss that develops due to outside forces (like damage).
- Congenital hearing loss: If you’re born with hearing loss it’s called “congenital”.
- Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either going through hearing loss in only one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
- Fluctuating or stable: If your hearing loss tends to come and go, it might be referred to as fluctuating. Stable hearing loss stays at around the same level.
- Progressive or sudden: Hearing loss that slowly gets worse over time is called “progressive”. Hearing loss that appears or presents instantly is known as “sudden”.
- 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.
If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. The point is that each categorization helps us more precisely and effectively address your symptoms.
A hearing test is in order
So how do you know what type, and what sub-type, of hearing loss you have? Self-diagnosis of hearing loss isn’t, regrettably, something that’s at all accurate. It will be difficult for you to determine, for example, whether your cochlea is functioning correctly.
But you can get a hearing test to find out exactly what’s happening. It’s like when you have a check engine light on in your car and you bring it to a skilled auto technician. We can help you figure out what type of hearing loss you have by hooking you up to a wide variety of modern technology.
So give us a call today and schedule an appointment to find out what’s going on.
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