Have you ever seen a t-shirt advertised as “one size fits all” but when you went to try it on, you were disheartened to find that it didn’t fit at all? That’s really aggravating. The truth is that there’s virtually nothing in the world that is really a “one size fits all”. That’s true with t-shirts and it’s also relevant 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? Well, that’s exactly what we intend to explore.
There are different kinds of hearing loss
Everybody’s hearing loss situation 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 fine. Or maybe 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 underlying cause of your hearing loss will dictate how it manifests. Because your ear is a rather complex little organ, there are lots of things that can go wrong.
How your hearing works
It’s helpful to get an idea of how hearing is supposed to work before we can determine what degree of hearing loss requires a hearing aid. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Outer ear: This is the visible portion of the ear. 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 several 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 detected by these fragile hairs which are then converted into electrical signals. Your cochlea plays a role in this too. Our brain then receives this electrical energy.
- Auditory nerve: This nerve sends these electrical signals to the brain.
- Auditory system: All of the parts listed above, from your brain to your outer ear, are elements of your “auditory system”. The overall hearing process depends on all of these elements working in concert with one another. Usually, in other words, the entire system will be affected if any one part has problems.
Hearing loss varieties
Because there are multiple parts of your auditory system, there are (as a result) multiple types of hearing loss. Which type you develop will depend on the underlying cause.
Here are some of the most prevalent causes:
- Conductive hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss occurs because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, often in the outer or middle ear. Usually, fluid or inflammation is the cause of this blockage (when you have an ear infection, for instance, this usually occurs). A growth in the ear can occasionally cause conductive hearing loss. Once the blockage is eliminated, hearing will usually go back to normal.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: When the delicate hairs that pick up sound, called stereocilia, are damaged by loud sound they are normally destroyed. This type of hearing loss is typically chronic, progressive, and permanent. Usually, individuals are encouraged to use ear protection to prevent this kind of hearing loss. Even though sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, it can be successfully managed 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 numerous different places, this can sometimes be challenging to manage.
- Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: ANSD is a fairly rare condition. It happens when the cochlea doesn’t effectively transmit sounds from your ear to your brain. ANSD can usually be managed with a device known as a cochlear implant.
The desired results are the same even though the treatment solution will vary for each type of hearing loss: improving your hearing ability.
Hearing loss types have variations
And that’s not all! Any of these common kinds of hearing loss can be categorized further (and more specifically). Here are some examples:
- Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either experiencing hearing loss in just one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
- Acquired hearing loss: Hearing loss that happens due to outside causes (such as damage).
- Progressive or sudden: You have “progressive” hearing loss if it slowly worsens over time. Hearing loss that erupts or presents immediately is called “sudden”.
- Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to speak, it’s known as pre-lingual. If your hearing loss developed after you learned to speak, it’s called post-lingual. This will affect the way hearing loss is treated.
- Symmetrical or asymmetrical: If your hearing loss is the same in both ears it’s symmetrical and if it’s not the same in both ears it’s asymmetrical.
- Congenital hearing loss: If you’re born with hearing loss it’s known as “congenital”.
- Fluctuating or stable: If your hearing loss tends to come and go, it might be referred to as fluctuating. Stable hearing loss stays at about 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 effectively managed when we’re able to use these categories.
Time to have a hearing test
So how can you tell which of these classifications pertains to your hearing loss situation? Self-diagnosis of hearing loss isn’t, unfortunately, something that’s at all accurate. For instance, is your cochlea working correctly, how would you know?
But that’s what hearing exams are for! Your loss of hearing is kind of like a “check engine” light. We can help you determine what type of hearing loss you have by hooking you up to a wide variety of modern technology.
So give us a call as soon as you can and make an appointment to figure out what’s going on.