Hearing problems are grouped in a number of different ways. The exact part of the auditory system affected determines the categorization. In this brief article we present an overview of 5 types – conductive, sensorineural, functional, central and mixed. Some forms of hearing impairment are more easily treated than others, and a professional hearing care specialist can guide you through your choices after an examination.
- Conductive hearing loss – In situations where sound waves aren’t completely conducted to the inner ear through the outer and middle ear, conductive hearing loss occurs. Conductive hearing loss is quite common and could be caused by an accumulation of ear wax, an accumulation of moisture in the eustacian tube, which keeps the eardrum from moving, a middle ear infection, a perforated eardrum, disease of the tiny bones of the middle ear and other blockages in the ear canal.Most instances of this type of hearing loss are reversible, presuming there is no permanent damage to the regions of the middle ear, and with treatment the trouble usually resolves fairly quickly. In some cases surgery can assist in correcting the condition or a hearing aid may be recommended.
- Sensorineural hearing loss – This type of hearing loss accounts for more than 90 percent of the cases in which a hearing aid is used. Sensorineural hearing loss is due to damage in the inner ear or damage to the acoustic nerve, which blocks sound signals from being transmitted to the brain. Also known as nerve deafness or retrocochlear hearing loss, the impairment is generally speaking permanent, though advances in technology have enabled some previously untreatable cases to be improved. The most typical causes of sensorineural hearing loss are the aging process, prolonged exposure to noise, complications with blood circulation to the interior of the ear, fluid disturbance in the inner ear, drugs that cause injury to the ear, a handful of diseases, genetics and issues with the auditory nerve. Hearing aids are satisfactory for the majority of people who have sensorineural hearing loss, but in more serious cases, a cochlear implant may help restore hearing to those for whom a standard hearing aid is insufficient.
- Central hearing loss – This condition occurs in situations where an issue in the CNS (central nervous system) prevents sound signals from being processed and interpreted by the brain. The person affected can seemingly hear just fine, but can’t understand or decipher what the speaker is saying. Many cases involve a problem with the individual’s capacity to adequately filter rivaling sounds. For instance, most of us can have a conversation with traffic noise in the background, but individuals with central hearing loss have a difficult time doing so.
- Mixed hearing loss – As the term suggests, mixed hearing loss is a mixture of different types of hearing loss, in this case the combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Though there are a couple of other kinds of hearing loss, the combination of these two is most common.
- Functional hearing loss – An infrequent occurrence, functional hearing loss is not physical. This condition is caused by an emotional or psychological problem in which the person’s physical hearing is normal, but they are not able to hear.