Have you ever bought one of those “one size fits all” t-shirts only to be dismayed (and surprised) when the shirt does not, in fact, fit as advertised? It’s sort of a bummer, isn’t it? The reality is that there’s pretty much nothing in the world that is truly a “one size fits all”. That’s not only relevant 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 is the most common type of hearing loss? Let’s see what we can find out!
There are different forms of hearing loss
Everybody’s hearing loss scenario will be as unique as they are. Perhaps when you’re in a crowded restaurant you can’t hear very well, but when you’re at work, you hear just fine. Or perhaps you only have difficulty with high-pitched voices or low-pitched sounds. There are a wide variety of forms that your hearing loss can take.
The root cause of your hearing loss will dictate how it manifests. Any number of things can go wrong with an organ as intricate as the ear.
How does hearing work?
Before you can completely understand how hearing loss works, or what level of hearing loss requires a hearing aid, it’s helpful to consider how things are supposed to work, how your ear is typically supposed to work. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Outer ear: This is the part of the ear that’s visible. It’s the initial sound receiver. The shape of your ear helps funnel those sounds into your middle ear (where they are processed further).
- Middle ear: The eardrum and a few tiny bones are what your middle ear is composed of (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 picked up by these little hairs which are then converted into electrical signals. Your cochlea helps here, too. Our brain then receives these electrical signals.
- Auditory nerve: This nerve is located in your ear, and it’s responsible for transmitting and sending this electrical energy to your brain.
- Auditory system: From your brain to your outer ear, the “auditory system” encompasses all of the elements discussed above. It’s essential to understand that all of these elements are constantly working together and in unison with one another. Typically, in other words, the entire system will be affected if any one part has problems.
Hearing loss types
Because there are multiple parts of your auditory system, there are (as a result) numerous types of hearing loss. Which type you develop will depend on the root cause.
Here are some of the most prevalent causes:
- Conductive hearing loss: When there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, often the middle or outer ear, this type of hearing loss happens. Normally, this blockage is caused by fluid or inflammation (this usually happens, for example, when you have an ear infection). In some cases, conductive hearing loss can be the result of a growth in the ear canal. Once the obstruction is eliminated, hearing will normally go back to normal.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: When the fragile hairs that detect sound, called stereocilia, are damaged by loud noise they are normally destroyed. Normally, this is a chronic, progressive and irreversible form of hearing loss. Typically, individuals are encouraged to use hearing protection to avoid this kind of hearing loss. Even though sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, it can be effectively treated with hearing aids.
- Mixed hearing loss: It’s also possible to have a combination of sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. Because the hearing loss is coming from several different places, this can sometimes be challenging to manage.
- Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: ANSD is a rather rare condition. It occurs when the cochlea doesn’t properly transmit sounds from your ear to your brain. A device called a cochlear implant is normally used to manage this type of hearing loss.
The desired results are the same even though the treatment solution will vary for each form of hearing loss: to improve or maintain your ability to hear.
Variations on hearing loss kinds
And that isn’t all! We can analyze and categorize these common forms of hearing loss even more specifically. For instance, hearing loss can also be classified as:
- Congenital hearing loss: Hearing loss you were born with.
- Progressive or sudden: Hearing loss that gradually gets worse over time is called “progressive”. Hearing loss that erupts or shows up immediately is known as “sudden”.
- Symmetrical or asymmetrical: This tells you whether your hearing loss is the same in both ears or unequal in both ears.
- Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to speak, it’s called pre-lingual. Hearing loss is post-lingual when it develops after you learned to speak. This can have implications for treatment and adaptation.
- Acquired hearing loss: Hearing loss that happens due to outside causes (such as damage).
- Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either going through hearing loss in just one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
- Fluctuating or stable: If your hearing loss tends to appear and disappear, it may be referred to as fluctuating. Stable hearing loss stays at relatively the same level.
- High frequency vs. low frequency: Your hearing loss can be classified as one or the other depending on what frequency range is getting lost.
If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. But your hearing loss will be more successfully treated when we’re able to use these categories.
Time to get a hearing test
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 accurately diagnose by yourself. It will be hard for you to determine, for example, whether your cochlea is working properly.
But that’s what hearing examinations are for! It’s like when you have a check engine light on in your car and you take it to a qualified auto technician. We can help you identify what type of hearing loss you have by connecting you to a wide range of modern technology.
So give us a call today and make an appointment to figure out what’s going on.