Have you ever bought one of those “one size fits all” t-shirts only to be disappointed (and shocked) when the shirt doesn’t, in fact, fit as advertised? It’s sort of a bummer, isn’t it? The fact is that there’s pretty much nothing in the world that is really a “one size fits all”. That’s not only relevant with clothing, it’s also true with medical conditions such as hearing loss. There can be many reasons why it occurs.
So what causes hearing loss? And what’s the most prevalent type of hearing loss? Well, that’s precisely what we intend to find out.
There are different forms of hearing loss
Everyone’s hearing loss scenario will be as individual as they are. Perhaps when you’re in a noisy restaurant you can’t hear very well, but when you’re at work, you hear just fine. Or maybe you only have trouble with high or low-pitched sounds. There are numerous forms that your hearing loss can take.
How your hearing loss presents, in part, might be dictated by what’s causing your symptoms to begin with. Because your ear is a rather complex little organ, there are any number of things that can go wrong.
How your hearing works
Before you can totally 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 function, how your ear is typically supposed to work. Check out this breakdown:
- Outer ear: This is the visible part of the ear. It’s the initial sound receiver. The shape of your ear helps funnel those sounds into your middle ear (where they are further processed).
- Middle ear: The middle ear consists of your eardrum and several tiny ear bones (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 transformed into electrical energy. Your cochlea helps here, also. Our brain then receives these electrical signals.
- Auditory nerve: This nerve sends these electrical signals to the brain.
- Auditory system: All of the components listed above, from your brain to your outer ear, are elements of your “auditory system”. The overall hearing process depends on all of these components working in concert with each other. Typically, in other words, the whole system will be impacted if any one part has problems.
Hearing loss types
Because there are multiple parts of your auditory system, there are (as a result) multiple types of hearing loss. The root cause of your hearing loss will determine which type of hearing loss you experience.
The prevalent types of hearing loss include:
- Conductive hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss happens because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, frequently in the outer or middle ear. Usually, this blockage is due to fluid or inflammation (when you have an ear infection, for example, this usually occurs). Sometimes, conductive hearing loss can be the result of a growth in the ear canal. Normally, with conductive hearing loss, your hearing will go back to normal as soon as the blockage is gone.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: When the delicate hairs that pick up sound, called stereocilia, are damaged by loud noise they are normally destroyed. Usually, this is a chronic, progressive and irreversible type of hearing loss. Usually, people are encouraged to use ear protection to avoid this kind of hearing loss. Even though sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, it can be successfully managed with hearing aids.
- Mixed hearing loss: It’s also possible to experience a combination of sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. Because the hearing loss is coming from numerous different places, this can sometimes be difficult to manage.
- Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: It’s fairly rare for somebody to develop ANSD. It occurs when the cochlea doesn’t properly transmit sounds from your ear to your brain. ANSD can normally be managed with a device called a cochlear implant.
Each form of hearing loss requires a different treatment approach, but the desired results are usually the same: to improve or preserve your ability to hear.
Hearing loss kinds have variations
And that isn’t all! We can break down and categorize these common forms of hearing loss even more specifically. For example, hearing loss can also be classified as:
- Fluctuating or stable: Fluctuating hearing loss refers to hearing loss that comes and goes. Stable hearing loss stays at relatively the same level.
- Symmetrical or asymmetrical: This tells you whether your hearing loss is equal in both ears or unequal in both ears.
- Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either going through hearing loss in only one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
- Acquired hearing loss: Hearing loss that happens due to outside forces (like damage).
- Progressive or sudden: You have “progressive” hearing loss if it gradually gets worse over time. If your hearing loss happens all at once, it’s known as “sudden”.
- Congenital hearing loss: Hearing loss you were born with.
- Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to talk, it’s known as pre-lingual. Hearing loss is post-lingual when it develops after you learned to talk. This will affect the way hearing loss is managed.
- High frequency vs. low frequency: You might experience more difficulty hearing high or low-frequency sounds. Your hearing loss can then be classified as one or the other.
If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. The point is that each classification helps us more precisely and effectively address your symptoms.
A hearing exam is in order
So how can you be sure which of these categories pertains to your hearing loss scenario? Unfortunately, hearing loss isn’t really something you can self-diagnose with much accuracy. As an example, is your cochlea functioning properly, how would you know?
But you can get a hearing test to determine exactly what’s happening. It’s like when you have a check engine light on in your car and you take it to a qualified auto technician. We can help you identify what type of hearing loss you’re dealing with by hooking you up to a wide variety of modern technology.
So give us a call as soon as you can and schedule an appointment to find out what’s happening.
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