The Different Types of Hearing Loss – Causes & Treatment Options

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There are many causes for the loss of hearing, and it is one of the first things an audiologist will determine in order to prescribe the right treatment.

How many people across the globe have disabling hearing loss? According to the World Health Organization:

  • 34 million children
  • 432 million adults

Hearing loss can occur in one ear or both, and each person’s hearing loss will be unique to them in that they will have different degrees of loss in processing a sound’s volume, pitch, and tone.

There are many causes for the loss of hearing, and it is one of the first things an audiologist will determine in order to prescribe the right treatment.

Causes Of Hearing Loss

The main causes of hearing loss are aging, loud noise exposure, ototoxic medications, genetic traits, injury, inner ear problems, and certain medical conditions.

Age is one of the main causes of hearing loss.

The numbers of those with hearing loss depend on the age group studied. One in four people over the age of 65+ have mild to severe hearing loss compared to one in fifty in the 45 to 54 age bracket.

The First Step in Determining Whether You Have Hearing Loss Is Through a Comprehensive Assessment with An Audiologist

Hearing Loss Types

There are different types and degrees of hearing loss. You can have hearing loss in one ear or both, and it can happen suddenly or over a long period of time.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss is diagnosed when sound waves cannot travel through the inner ear freely because of some obstacle or a faulty conduction channel.

For a person with normal hearing, sound waves travel through the outer, middle, and inner ear, where they will be converted to electrical signals that the auditory system then sends to the brain for processing.

Things that can impede this flow of sound waves and signals include:

  • Earwax buildup in the ear canal
  • Inflammation of the ear due to illness or an ear infection
  • A ruptured or perforated eardrum
  • A growth in the ear canal such as a cyst or tumor
  • Damaged middle ear bone structures

Conductive hearing loss symptoms can include the feeling that your ears are plugged up or that sounds seem muffled or far away. In the case of an infection or ruptured eardrum, you might feel intense or chronic pain.

Conductive hearing loss treatment can be simple, such as removing earwax, treating an infection with antibiotics and grommets, or removing a cyst surgically.

Other treatments might include a surgical repair of the eardrum or inner ear bones.

If the auditory system is partially damaged, audiologists will often treat it with hearing aids. Sometimes a patient will be a good candidate for treatment with a cochlear implant.

Acute or Chronic Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Acute or chronic sensorineural hearing loss is due to damage to the auditory system’s hearing sensors in the inner ear or to the auditory nerve.

Acute sensorineural hearing loss happens suddenly, but 32 to 65% of these cases resolve on their own within a few days.

It can be caused by:

  • Sudden, loud noise near the ear, such as a firework or gunshot
  • A head injury
  • An illness or ear infection
  • Certain diseases that affect the brain, such as Ménière’s disease, meningitis, or cancer

Acute sensorineural hearing loss treatment must happen as soon as possible. An audiologist will refer you to an ENT specialist for this.

Chronic or Long-Term Sensorineural Hearing Loss

This type of hearing loss happens so gradually that it can take a while before the person with the hearing loss notices a problem. Loved ones and friends will usually be the first to notice something is wrong.

Causes include:

  • Aging
  • Long-term exposure to noise, such as hunting, military career, or factory work
  • Turning up the volume too high on earphones, earbuds, headphones, etc.
  • Congenital issues
  • Genetic abnormalities related to hearing
  • Ototoxic medications – meds that damage the hearing
  • Medical issues, such as heart disease, circulatory system disorders, and autoimmune disease

Long-term sensorineural hearing loss treatment is usually with hearing aids. If medical issues and medications are the cause, a treatment plan is implemented after conferring with the patient’s medical team.

Noise-induced hearing loss can be totally prevented with good hearing protection!

Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.

Hearing Loss Degrees And Treatment

The degree of a hearing loss is diagnosed with a hearing assessment. It can be classified as mild, moderate, severe, or profound, with more classifications in between those four.

  • Mild, moderate, and severe hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids that are programmed to clarify and amplify exactly what the wearer is missing.
  • A profound hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids or a cochlear implant.

Hearing Loss Treatment in Hanover and Weymouth

A hearing test with an audiologist is the best first step toward finding out if you have hearing loss, what is causing it, and what the best treatment might be.

The sooner you treat hearing loss, the better the long-term outcome.

Book your hearing test at South Sound Hearing Center to ensure your hearing is the best it can be. We’ll give you the results immediately after and discuss all your options.

We are trusted by South Shore and Southeast Massachusetts physicians and ENT specialists, and no matter what is going on with your hearing, we’ll get to the bottom of it and make sure it is treated properly so you can live your best life.

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Kaitlyn Foley, Au.D., CCC-A

Dr. Kaitlyn Foley is a Massachusetts native . She is a recent graduate of Northeastern University’s Doctorate of Audiology program. She began working full time after completing a year-long residency at South Shore Hearing Center. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in speech and hearing with a minor in education and psychology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2014. Ms. Foley’s interests include diagnostic audiology, pediatric and adult amplification, educational audiology, and cochlear implants.

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