Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss affects tens of millions of Americans, but the condition itself can be subdivided into just three distinct types. These categories of hearing loss name the part of the ear that’s damaged: sensorineural hearing loss is related to the inner ear, conductive hearing loss is related to the middle or outer ear and mixed hearing loss is related to both the inner ear and the middle or outer ear.

Hearing loss can be further categorized by whether it affects one or both ears. A loss of hearing in just one ear is called unilateral hearing loss, while bilateral hearing loss occurs when both ears are affected.

The Three Types of Hearing Loss

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing problems involve the outer or middle ear, affecting areas like the ear canal, eardrum or ossicles. They are usually mild to moderate and can often be treated with medication or surgery. Some of the most common causes of conductive hearing loss include fluid buildup, earwax buildup, foreign objects, malformations, swimmer’s ear, abnormal bone growths, acoustic neuromas, ear infections and problems with the Eustachian tubes.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing problems affect the inner ear and are by far the most common cause of hearing loss. Aberdeen and South Bend patients with sensorineural hearing loss usually use hearing aids to treat their condition, though cases of severe and profound hearing loss can sometimes be treated with cochlear implants. The most common causes of sensorineural hearing loss are aging and exposure to loud noise. Other causes include viral infections, ototoxic medications, malformations, acoustic neuromas, injuries, Meniere’s disease, developmental problems and autoimmune disorders.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss describes the relatively rare cases in which a patient has both conductive and sensorineural hearing problems. Treatment options may include medication, surgery, hearing aids or cochlear implants, depending on the severity and specifics of the problem.