Understanding the way we hear is the first step in fully understanding the numerous reasons for hearing loss and the unique forms of hearing loss. We receive sounds via the outer ear, which is not only the part of the ear on the outside of our heads, but also the eardrum and the ear canal. The eardrum is also viewed as part of the middle ear, an area that also includes the 3 miniature bones called ossicles that carry the vibrations of sound and send them to the inner ear. The inner ear consists of a snail-shaped organ known as the cochlea, two semicircular canals which help us keep our balance, and a set of acoustic nerves that lead to the brain. The hearing system is a very intricate mechanism, and troubles may occur in any part of it that result in hearing loss. Four different classifications make up what is collectively called “hearing loss.”
The first class is conductive hearing loss, which is caused by an obstruction which hinders sounds from being properly transmitted through the outer or middle ear. This form of hearing loss can frequently be remedied by medication or surgery; if surgery isn’t a possibility, conductive hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids.
Damage to the inner ear, including the cochlea, hair cells lining the inner ear, or the acoustic nerves is called sensorineural hearing loss. This damage can in most cases not be effectively remedied by medication or surgery, but can be minimized through the use of hearing aids.
The third classification is mixed hearing loss, which is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, and which can often be treated using the same combinations of surgery, medication, and hearing aids.
The fourth and final classification is called central hearing loss, and happens when sound passes through the ear normally, but some form of damage to the inner ear causes it to be scrambled so that it is not properly understood by our brains.
Each of these four main classifications contain several sub-categories, such as the degree of hearing loss, which can be mid-level, moderate, severe, or profound. Hearing loss is typically classified with additional sub-categories including whether the hearing loss occurs in one or both ears (unilateral vs. bilateral), whether the degree of hearing loss is the same in both ears (symmetrical vs. asymmetrical), or whether the hearing loss occurred before or after learning to speak (pre-lingual or post-lingual). Additional sub-categories of hearing loss includes whether it is progressive vs. sudden, whether the hearing loss is fluctuating vs. stable, and whether the hearing loss was present at birth (congenital) or developed later in life (acquired). Whatever the cause of your hearing loss, our specialists will help you diagnose the cause and help you treat it properly and effectively.