Have you ever seen a t-shirt promoted as “one size fits all” but when you went to put it on, you were discouraged to find that it didn’t fit at all? That’s really frustrating. The truth is that there’s almost nothing in the world that is truly a “one size fits all”. That’s not only true with clothing, it’s also true with medical conditions like hearing loss. This can be true for numerous reasons.
So what’s the cause of hearing loss? And what’s the most prevalent type of hearing loss? Well, that’s precisely what we intend to find out.
Hearing loss comes in different types
Everyone’s hearing loss situation will be as individual as they are. Maybe you hear perfectly well at the office, but not in a noisy restaurant. Or, perhaps specific 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 causes your symptoms to begin with. Lots of things can go wrong with an organ as intricate as the ear.
How your hearing works
Before you can completely understand how hearing loss works, or what level of hearing loss requires a hearing aid, it’s practical to consider how things are supposed to function, how your ear is generally supposed to work. Check out this breakdown:
- Outer ear: This is the visible part of the ear. 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 is composed of your eardrum and several tiny ear bones (yes, you have bones in your ear, but they are admittedly very, very tiny).
- Inner ear: This is where your stereocilia are found. Vibration is detected by these fragile hairs which are then converted into electrical signals. Your cochlea helps here, also. Our brain then receives this electrical energy.
- Auditory nerve: This nerve is inside of your ear, and it’s responsible for transmitting and sending this electrical energy towards your brain.
- Auditory system: All of the elements listed above, from your brain to your outer ear, are components of your “auditory system”. The complete hearing process depends on all of these parts working in concert with each other. Typically, in other words, the whole system will be impacted if any one part has issues.
Types of hearing loss
Because there are numerous parts of your auditory system, there are (as a result) multiple types of hearing loss. Which form you experience will depend on the root cause.
The prevalent types of hearing loss include:
- Conductive hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss occurs because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, frequently in the outer or middle ear. Normally, fluid or inflammation is the cause of this blockage (this typically happens, for instance, when you have an ear infection). Sometimes, conductive hearing loss can be caused by a growth in the ear canal. When the obstruction is eliminated, hearing will normally go back to normal.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: When your ears are damaged by loud noise, the delicate hair cells which pick up sound, called stereocilia, are destroyed. This type of hearing loss is usually chronic, progressive, and irreversible. Typically, people are encouraged to use ear protection to avoid this type of hearing loss. Even though sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, it can be effectively managed with hearing aids.
- Mixed hearing loss: It occasionally happens that a person will experience both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss at the same time. This can sometimes be hard to treat because the hearing loss is coming from different places.
- Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: ANSD is a fairly rare condition. When sound isn’t effectively transmitted from your ear to your brain, this type of hearing loss occurs. ANSD can normally be treated with a device called a cochlear implant.
Each type of hearing loss requires a different treatment approach, but the desired results are usually the same: improving your hearing ability.
Hearing loss kinds have variations
And that isn’t all! Any of these normal types of hearing loss can be categorized further (and more specifically). Here are some examples:
- Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to talk, it’s called pre-lingual. Hearing loss is post-lingual when it develops after you learned to talk. This will affect the way hearing loss is addressed.
- Fluctuating or stable: If your hearing loss tends to come and go, it might be referred to as fluctuating. Stable hearing loss remains at about the same level.
- Symmetrical or asymmetrical: If your hearing loss is the same in both ears it’s symmetrical and if it isn’t the same in both ears it’s asymmetrical.
- Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either experiencing hearing loss in only one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
- Progressive or sudden: You have “progressive” hearing loss if it gradually worsens over time. Hearing loss that erupts or presents immediately is called “sudden”.
- Acquired hearing loss: Hearing loss that develops as a result of outside causes (such as damage).
- Congenital hearing loss: If you’re born with hearing loss it’s known as “congenital”.
- High frequency vs. low frequency: Your hearing loss can be classified as one or the other depending on what frequency range is getting lost.
That may seem like a lot, and it is. The point is that each classification helps us more precisely and effectively address your symptoms.
A hearing exam is in order
So how can you be sure which of these classifications applies to your hearing loss scenario? Unfortunately, hearing loss isn’t really something you can self-diagnose with much accuracy. For instance, is your cochlea working correctly, how would you know?
But you can get a hearing test to determine 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 connect you to a wide range of machines, and help determine what type of hearing loss you have.
So give us a call as soon as you can and schedule an appointment to figure out what’s going on.