Hearing Loss


Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can manifest in a range of degrees, including mild, moderate, moderately-severe, severe, or profound. It can also affect different pitches or frequencies. A series of hearing tests can determine the degree of hearing loss compared to the average of many other adult listeners with typical hearing.

The volume of sounds is measured in decibels (dB), with the softest whisper being 15-20 dB and a jet engine being 120 dB. The softest sounds that can be heard are called thresholds. Normal hearing thresholds for adults are considered to be 0-25 dB across the range of frequencies tested. Speech testing is also conducted as part of the evaluation to assess the levels of particular words that can be heard clearly. These tests can help determine the type of hearing loss, which can be conductive, sensorineural, or mixed.

Conductive hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss happens when sound is not properly conducted to the inner ear’s cochlea. This can be caused by issues in the ear canal, eardrum, or middle ear structures such as the ossicles and Eustachian tube. The inner ear and auditory nerve remain unaffected. Symptoms include muffled or quiet sounds. Causes include infections, earwax blockage, deterioration of middle ear bones, otosclerosis, perforated eardrum, or missing outer or middle ear structures. The condition can be temporary or permanent and can be treated with medical management or hearing instruments.

Sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss is a condition that affects the sensory receptors of the hearing system, specifically in the cochlea or auditory nerve. It is caused by damage to the hair cells in the cochlea, which prevents sound from being transmitted to the brain normally and results in a hearing loss. Symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss include muffled speech, tinnitus, difficulty hearing in background noise, and clarity of speech problems. Causes of sensorineural hearing loss include congenital conditions, damage to hair cells from genetics, infection, drugs, trauma, and noise exposure, as well as age-related hearing loss (presbycusis). Sensorineural hearing loss is generally permanent and may worsen over time. Routine hearing tests and hearing aids are the most common and successful treatment for this condition.

Mixed hearing loss

Mixed hearing loss is a condition where a person has both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss, which means there are issues with both the inner and outer/middle ear. The conductive hearing loss aspect may be temporary or permanent, depending on the cause. It can be treated with medical management and hearing aids are often recommended as a treatment option.

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