Learning Center

Types of Hearing Loss


Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss results from damage to the inner ear, the nerve of hearing or both and is commonly referred to as “nerve deafness”. Since nerve damage typically cannot be reversed, it is usually a permanent hearing loss. It reduces the intensity of sound, but it might also result in a lack of clarity even when sounds are loud enough. The loss often occurs gradually so it may go unnoticed by the affected person for years. Often times, these individuals hear well up to a certain elevated volume level, but may complain that loud sounds are unpleasant and that background noises are particularly irritating. The treatment for sensorineural loss is amplification through hearing devices with the goal of making soft sounds audible and loud sounds tolerable. Sensorineural hearing loss can occur at any age. Frequent causes of sensorineural hearing loss are heredity, birth defects, syndromes, viral infections, tumors, Meniere’s disease, ototoxic medication and presbycusis or hearing loss as part of the aging process. Perhaps the most common cause of sensorineural hearing loss is excessive noise exposure.

The world is getting noisier and the incidence of noise induced hearing loss is increasing. Noise exposure at work or during leisure time can permanently damage the inner ear. While this can be prevented with the use of hearing protection, once the damage has occurred a hearing device is the only treatment. Learn about ways to protect your hearing.

Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive loss is caused by a condition or disease that blocks or impedes the transmission of sound through the outer or middle ear. The result is a reduction in the sound intensity or loudness that reaches the cochlea. Generally, the cause of conductive loss can be treated with a complete or partial improvement in hearing through medical/surgical intervention or the use of hearing devices. Conductive loss may occur at any age and can occur suddenly or gradually. Conductive loss frequently occurs because of otitis media (an inflammation in the middle ear that is usually associated with a build-up of fluid), otosclerosis (calcification of the middle ear bones), cholesteotoma (an epithelial growth usually due to repeated infection), a perforation of the tympanic membrane (caused by injury or infection) or a blockage of the outer ear (due to cerumen (wax), a foreign object, etc). Most of the causes of conductive loss can be at least partially corrected through medical intervention. The effectiveness of the treatment usually depends on the severity and/or duration of the condition. Most conductive hearing losses will improve after treatment and may even be completely reversed. Conductive losses that are not resolved through surgery or medication can often be improved with hearing devices.

Mixed Hearing Loss
Sensorineural and conductive hearing loss can occur simultaneously resulting in a “mixed” loss. This means that a problem occurs in both the outer or middle and the inner ear.