Have you ever seen a t-shirt promoted as “one size fits all” but when you went to put it on, you were disheartened to find that it didn’t fit at all? That’s really aggravating. There aren’t really very many “one size fits all” with anything in the real world. That’s true with t-shirts and it’s also true with medical conditions, like hearing loss. This can be true for numerous reasons.
So what are the most prevalent kinds of hearing loss and what are their causes? Let’s find out!
Hearing loss comes in different kinds
Everyone’s hearing loss scenario will be as unique as they are. Maybe you hear perfectly well at the office, but not in a noisy restaurant. Or maybe you only have problems with high or low-pitched sounds. There are a wide variety of forms that your hearing loss can take.
How your hearing loss shows up, in part, may be dictated by what causes your symptoms to begin with. Lots of things can go wrong with an organ as complex as the ear.
How your hearing works
Before you can completely understand how hearing loss works, or what degree of hearing loss requires a hearing aid, it’s practical to think a bit about 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 visible portion of the ear. It’s where you are first exposed to a “sound”. The shape of your ear helps funnel those sounds into your middle ear (where they are further processed).
- Middle ear: The eardrum and several tiny bones are what your middle ear is composed of (Yes, there are some tiny little bones in there).
- 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 helps here, also. Our brain then receives these electrical signals.
- Auditory nerve: This nerve directs these electrical signals to the brain.
- Auditory system: All of the components listed above, from your brain to your outer ear, are components of your “auditory system”. The overall hearing process depends on all of these parts working in unison 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 numerous parts of your auditory system, there are (as a result) numerous forms of hearing loss. The root cause of your hearing loss will determine which kind of hearing loss you develop.
The prevalent types of hearing loss include:
- Conductive hearing loss: This form of hearing loss occurs because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, frequently in the middle or outer ear. Normally, fluid or inflammation is the cause of this blockage (when you have an ear infection, for instance, this usually happens). Sometimes, conductive hearing loss can be caused by a growth in the ear canal. Typically, with conductive hearing loss, your hearing will return to normal as soon as the obstruction has been removed.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: When your ears are damaged by loud sound, the delicate hair cells which pick up sound, called stereocilia, are destroyed. Usually, this is a chronic, progressive and permanent form of hearing loss. Typically, individuals are encouraged to wear ear protection to prevent this type of hearing loss. If you’re dealing with sensorineural hearing loss, it can still be managed by devices such as hearing aids.
- Mixed hearing loss: It occasionally happens that somebody will experience both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss at the same time. This can sometimes be difficult to treat because the hearing loss is coming from different places.
- Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: ANSD is a rather rare condition. It happens when the cochlea does not properly transmit sounds from your ear to your brain. A device known as a cochlear implant is normally used to manage this kind of hearing loss.
The desired results are the same even though the treatment option will vary for each form of hearing loss: to improve or maintain your ability to hear.
Variations on hearing loss kinds
And that’s not all! We can break down and categorize these common types of hearing loss even more specifically. Here are some examples:
- Congenital hearing loss: If you’re born with hearing loss it’s known as “congenital”.
- Fluctuating or stable: Fluctuating hearing loss refers to hearing loss that appears and disappears. If your hearing loss remains at around the same levels, it’s called stable.
- Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: It’s possible to develop hearing loss in one ear (unilateral), or in both (bilateral).
- High frequency vs. low frequency: You might have more difficulty hearing high or low-frequency sounds. Your hearing loss can then be categorized as one or the other.
- Symmetrical or asymmetrical: If your hearing loss is the same in both ears it’s symmetrical and if it isn’t the same in both ears it’s asymmetrical.
- Acquired hearing loss: If you experience hearing loss due to outside causes, such as damage, it’s called “acquired”.
- Pre-lingual or post-lingual: Hearing loss is called pre-lingual when it develops before you learned to speak. If your hearing loss developed after you learned to speak, it’s called post-lingual. This will affect the way hearing loss is managed.
- Progressive or sudden: You have “progressive” hearing loss if it slowly worsens over time. Hearing loss that erupts or presents immediately is called “sudden”.
That might seem like a lot, and it is. The point is that each classification helps us more precisely and effectively treat your symptoms.
Time to get a hearing exam
So how do you know what type, and what sub-type, of hearing loss you’re experiencing? Self-diagnosis of hearing loss isn’t, regrettably, something that’s at all accurate. For instance, is your cochlea functioning correctly, how would you know?
But that’s what hearing tests 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 range of modern technology.
So the best way to figure out what’s happening is to make an appointment with us today!
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