Hearing Loss Information: Types and Causes

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What is hearing loss?

Ear diagramHearing loss can affect anyone, and at any point during a person’s life. It affects different people to varying degrees and for different reasons, and can be triggered by any number of environmental and biological factors.

Because the loss typically develops gradually, you may not notice the loss of subtle everyday sounds such as a ticking clock or a rustling newspaper. Before you realize it, you are missing sounds critical to effective communication.

Living with untreated loss means difficulties in conversations with loved ones, at social gatherings, and work settings. Untreated, hearing loss makes it challenging to keep up with everyday life. Treatment can lead to a better quality of life by improving personal relationships, reducing anger and frustration, and providing better control of one’s life.

Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is generally categorized by location—that is, what part of the ear is damaged—as well as by severity and age of onset. There are three main types of loss: conductive, sensorineural, and a combination of both, known as mixed hearing loss.

Conductive hearing loss results from sound waves being conducted through the outer and/or middle ear inefficiently. Sound waves are blocked or muffled before they can reach the inner ear, which is still functioning properly.

Conductive hearing loss can frequently be treated with medication or surgery. Conductive hearing loss in adults is much less common and much more common in children.

If you or someone close to you has trouble hearing, call us to schedule an evaluation.


Causes of Hearing Loss

Anyone, at any age, may experience hearing loss. There are cases in which hearing loss is temporary, but more often than not, it is permanent. In most cases, there is no single cause for hearing loss. In order to better understand what causes hearing loss, let’s first explore how we hear.

The ear is made of three main parts: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The outer ear receives sound in the form of waves, which is amplified in the middle ear and sent to the inner ear, where it is transformed by hair cells into signals that are sent to the brain to be processed and registered as specific sounds.

When one or more of these parts, or a step in this process, malfunctions, hearing loss occurs. There are three types of hearing loss: conductive (which relates to the outer and middle ear), sensorineural (which relates to the inner ear), and mixed (a combination of the former two).

Potential causes for hearing loss include:

Presbycusis – otherwise known as age-related hearing loss – happens gradually and naturally over time. Presbycusis is considered a form of sensorineural hearing loss, in which signals of sound are no longer sent to the brain.

Presbycusis affects speech recognition as well.