Shot of a senior man drinking coffee and looking thoughtfully out of a window wondering about hearing loss.

Have you ever bought one of those “one size fits all” t-shirts only to be dismayed (and surprised) when the shirt does not, in fact, fit as advertised? That’s truly annoying. 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 relevant with medical conditions, like hearing loss. This can be true for many reasons.

So what are the most prevalent types of hearing loss and what causes them? Let’s find out!

There are different kinds of hearing loss

Everybody’s hearing loss situation will be as individual as they are. Maybe you hear perfectly well at the office, but not in a crowded restaurant. Or maybe you only have problems with high or low-pitched sounds. Your hearing loss can take a wide variety of shapes.

How your hearing loss shows up, in part, could be dictated by what causes your symptoms in the first place. Any number of things can go wrong with an organ as complex as the ear.

How does hearing work?

It’s useful to get an understanding of how hearing is supposed to work before we can understand what degree of hearing loss requires a hearing aid. Check out this breakdown:

  • Outer ear: This is the part of the ear that’s visible. It’s where you’re initially exposed to a “sound”. Sounds are effectively funneled into your middle ear for further processing by the shape of your outer ear.
  • 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 delicate hairs which are then converted into electrical energy. Your cochlea plays a role in this too. Our brain then receives these electrical signals.
  • Auditory nerve: This nerve is inside of your ear, and it’s responsible for transmitting and sending this electrical energy to your brain.
  • Auditory system: From your brain to your outer ear, the “auditory system” encompasses all of the elements discussed above. It’s important to understand that all of these parts are continually working together and in concert with each other. Put simply, the system is interconnected, so any issue in one area will usually affect the performance of the entire system.

Hearing loss types

Because there are multiple parts of your auditory system, there are (as a result) numerous types of hearing loss. The underlying cause of your hearing loss will determine which kind of hearing loss you experience.

The prevalent types of hearing loss include:

  • Conductive hearing loss: When there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, usually the middle or outer ear, this form of hearing loss happens. Normally, this blockage is caused by fluid or inflammation (when you have an ear infection, for example, this typically occurs). A growth in the ear can occasionally cause conductive hearing loss. Normally, with conductive hearing loss, your hearing will return to normal as soon as the blockage is gone.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss: When your ears are damaged by loud sound, the delicate hair cells which pick up sound, called stereocilia, are destroyed. This type of hearing loss is generally chronic, progressive, and irreversible. Usually, individuals are encouraged to use hearing protection to prevent this kind 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 a person will experience both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss simultaneously. Because the hearing loss is coming from several different places, this can sometimes be difficult to manage.
  • Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: It’s relatively rare for somebody to develop ANSD. When sound isn’t effectively transmitted from your ear to your brain, this type of hearing loss happens. ANSD can usually be managed with a device called a cochlear implant.

Each form of hearing loss requires a different treatment strategy, but the desired results are often the same: to improve or maintain your ability to hear.

Hearing loss types have variations

And there’s more. Any of these common kinds of hearing loss can be further categorized (and more specifically). Here are some examples:

  • Acquired hearing loss: If you develop hearing loss because of external forces, such as damage, it’s called “acquired”.
  • 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.
  • High frequency vs. low frequency: Your hearing loss can be categorized as one or the other depending on what frequency range is getting lost.
  • Congenital hearing loss: Hearing loss you were born with.
  • Pre-lingual or post-lingual: Hearing loss is known as pre-lingual when it develops before you learned to talk. Hearing loss is post-lingual when it develops after you learned to talk. This can have ramifications for treatment and adaptation.
  • Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either going through hearing loss in just one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
  • Fluctuating or stable: If your hearing loss tends to appear and disappear, it might be referred to as fluctuating. If your hearing loss remains at about the same levels, it’s known as stable.
  • Progressive or sudden: You have “progressive” hearing loss if it slowly worsens over time. Hearing loss that appears or shows up immediately is called “sudden”.

That might seem like a lot, and it is. The point is that each categorization helps us more accurately and effectively address your symptoms.

Time to have a hearing exam

So how can you be sure which of these categories pertains to your hearing loss scenario? Self-diagnosis of hearing loss isn’t, regrettably, something that’s at all accurate. It will be difficult for you to determine, for example, whether your cochlea is working properly.

But that’s what hearing tests are for! It’s like when you have a check engine light on in your car and you bring it to a skilled auto technician. We can help you identify what type of hearing loss you’re dealing with by hooking you up to a wide range of modern technology.

So the best way to figure out what’s going on is to make an appointment with us as soon as you can!

Call Today to Set Up an Appointment


The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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