Just as there are numerous reasons for hearing loss, there are several forms of hearing loss; understanding the way that we hear is the first step in understanding the different types. We collect sounds via the outer ear, which is not just the portion of the ear on the outside of our heads, but also the eardrum and the ear canal. In the middle ear 3 miniature bones called ossicles transfer sounds to the inner ear by converting them into vibrations.The inner ear has three key parts – the cochlea, the 2 semi-circular canals (essential for balance) and the acoustic nerves which transmit the impulses to the brain. All areas of the ear are complex and delicate. Problems in any of the 3 sections – outer, middle or inner ear – can cause hearing impairment. Hearing loss is usually broken down into four main classifications.
The first class is conductive hearing loss, which is due to a blockage or interference that prevents the sounds from being properly transmitted through the outer or middle ear. Conductive hearing loss is frequently curable using medication or with a surgical procedure, and if neither succeeds, it is managed with hearing aids.
Sensorineural hearing loss generally refers to damage to the hair cells of the inner ear, to the cochlea, or sometimes to the acoustic nerves. This damage can in most cases not be effectively remedied by medication or surgery, but can be minimized through the use of hearing aids.
Suffering from both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss is called mixed hearing loss and is generally treated with a combination of medication, surgery, and hearing aids.
Damage to the inner ear or auditory nerves preventing a message from being understood by our brain that entered the ear normally, is called central hearing loss.
Spanning each of these four main classifications are sub-categories of degree, meaning that the hearing loss may be mid-level, moderate, severe, or profound. Hearing loss can also be classified as either unilateral or bilateral (occurring in only one ear or both ears), as pre-lingual or post-lingual (occurring either before or after learning to speak), and symmetrical or asymmetrical (occurring to the same or different degree in both ears). Additional sub-categories of hearing loss includes whether it is progressive vs. sudden, whether the hearing loss is fluctuating vs. stable, and whether the hearing loss was present at birth (congenital) or developed later in life (acquired). The most important thing to bear in mind, however, is that whatever type of hearing loss you may have incurred, our specialists can help you to diagnose and treat it properly.