Types of Hearing Loss
Beck Hearing Resources
Different Types of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be experienced in varying degrees, such as mild, moderate, moderately-severe, severe or profound. Additionally, this loss can also vary depending on pitches or frequencies. A series of hearing tests can determine the amount of loss you experience compared to an average of many other adult listeners with typical hearing.
The volume of sounds you hear is measured in decibels (dB), 15-20 dB being the softest whisper and 120 dB being a jet engine. The softest sounds one can hear are called thresholds. Normal hearing thresholds for adults are considered 0-25 dB across the range of frequencies tested. Speech testing is also conducted as a part of this series of evaluations and helps to assess the levels of particular words you can hear clearly. These tests can help determine the type of hearing loss you’re experiencing, which can be categorized conductive, sensorineural or mixed.
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is a problem with the sensory receptors of the hearing system, specifically in the cochlea of the inner ear or auditory nerve. The majority of sensorineural hearing loss occurs as a result of an abnormality or damage to the hair cells in the cochlea. This abnormality prevents sound from being transmitted to the brain normally, which results in a hearing loss.
Individuals with sensorineural hearing loss may hear muffled speech, suffer from tinnitus (or ringing in the ears), have difficulty hearing in background noise or clarity of speech problems.
There are a number of causes of sensorineural hearing loss, including:
Some causes of conductive hearing loss can include:
- Outer or middle ear infections
- Complete earwax blockage
- Deterioration of the middle ear bones (ossicles)
- Otosclerosis, the fixation of the ossicles
- Perforated tympanic membrane or a hole in the eardrum
- Absence of the outer ear or middle ear structures
Mixed hearing loss occurs when a person has a sensorineural hearing loss in combination with a conductive hearing loss. This means there is a problem in the inner ear as well as in the outer and/or middle ear.
The conductive hearing loss may be temporary or permanent, depending on the source of the problem. Mixed hearing loss can sometimes be treated with medical management and hearing aids are a common treatment recommendation.
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