What are the Different Types of Hearing Loss and How Can We Treat Them
When any part of your auditory system stops working properly and in the usual way, hearing loss can take place. It can affect people of all ages and can occur due to many different reasons. Not hearing high-pitched sounds such as the beep of an alarm or ringing telephone can be an early indication of hearing loss.
Protecting your hearing is extremely important to prevent hearing loss from getting worse with time.
Here's a quick video describing each of these types of hearing loss.
There are many treatments that involve improving the hearing you have. Let’s take a look at the different types of hearing loss in simple terms.
Types of hearing loss and their treatments
What is hearing loss?
The auditory system usually consists of the inner ear, the middle ear, the outer ear and the acoustic nerve. When one of these parts stops functioning, hearing loss takes place.
It makes it difficult if not impossible to hear speech and all the sounds around.
There are different types of hearing loss and they vary between mild, moderate, severe and profound. Some of them are short-term, while others are permanent.
Why treat hearing loss?
In the case of children, untreated hearing loss negatively influences language development, social engagement, and learning.
In the case of adults, hearing loss makes communication a big challenge, having a huge impact on the quality of life. It has been linked to many physical and psychological issues such as depression and cognitive decline.
The type of hearing loss is different in each person, so a hearing test or evaluation is a must for accurate diagnosis and treatment planning.
Ear, nose and throat physicians (ENT) or otolaryngologists work with audiologists, who are specialists in diagnosing and treating hearing disorders. They both evaluate and assess your ears to determine which type of hearing loss is causing the symptoms you are experiencing.
Conductive Hearing Loss
This type of hearing loss is caused by problems in the ear drum, ear canal, middle ear or the little bones of it (incus, stapes and malleus).
Something stops sound vibrations from getting through the middle or outer ear.
It is usually temporary but may be permanent depending on the cause.
It is less common than the sensorineural hearing loss.
It can be the result of:
earwax build-up in the ear canal (oily substance known as cerumen)
trauma in the middle or outer ear
Ear infections, known as otitis media, causes fluid in the middle ear
Otosclerosis (abnormal growth in the middle ear that prevents the bone from receiving and translating sound waves in the correct way)
This type can affect one ear or both ears.
Treatment of conductive hearing loss
It usually involves medical intervention from ear-nose-throat specialist to address the specific cause.
Surgery is advised in the following situations:
Congenital absence of the ear canal
Ear canal fail to open during birth
Ossicular chain discontinuity
Dysfunction of the middle ear structure
Amplification can be a solution, depending on the status of the hearing nerve. It can be used through:
Surgically implanted hearing aids
Conventional hearing aids
Antifungal or antibiotic medications to treat chronic ear infections or middle fluids.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
This kind of hearing loss is caused because of problems in the inner ear or the auditory nerve. It is also identified as nerve-related hearing loss. A problem occurs in the way the inner ear or hearing nerves deliver sound to the brain. Tiny hair cells called stereocilia convert sound waves into electrical energy that travels through the auditory nerve to the brain. The brain interprets them as sound. Damage to these tiny hair cells is what causes sensorineural hearing loss.
It can happen because of a head trauma or changes in air pressure. This causes leakage or rupture in the inner ear fluid compartment and can be very toxic to the inner ear.
Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, is the most general type of hearing loss.
It is permanent; hair cells cannot be repaired once they are damaged.
It can be because of:
Noise-induced hearing loss (getting exposed to loud noises)
Certain diseases or injuries
Ototoxic drugs and medications
Few blood supply to the inner ear
Treatment of sensorineural hearing loss
Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss
It is usually medically treated with corticosteroids. They reduce the swelling or inflammation of the cochlea hair cell after being exposed to loud noise.
It should be evaluated instantly without any delay by an otologist, a specialist in diseases of the ears.
It might also be a temporary hearing loss which can be treated with different medications.
Fluctuating sensorineural hearing loss
It can be medically treated with corticosteroids, diuretics and low-sodium diet.
If the vertigo is not treated or controlled medically, several surgical procedures can be used to eliminate it.
Irreversible sensorineural hearing loss
It is generally the most common form of hearing loss. It can be managed through:
They neither restore hearing nor cure it. They amplify sound in specific ranges based on your condition and needs.
Today’s hearing aids can be customized in a way to amplify the sounds you need and want to hear while minimize the ones you don’t.
They can be worn inside the ear or behind it, depending on the degree of hearing loss and the personal preference. You can choose with the help of the audiologist the model and style that you want.
Hearing aids in specific situations are not the right solution for hearing loss. In this case, cochlear implants that require surgery are the recommended solution.
Assistive listening devices
They include alerting devices, captioned phones and vibrating alarm clocks.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss is caused due to combination of sensorineural damage in the inner ear, cochlea, or auditory nerve and conductive damage in the middle or outer ear.
It usually happens when sensorineural hearing loss is present, and a conductive hearing loss develops gradually.
It can trigger more profound hearing loss.
Treatment of mixed hearing loss
Audiologists usually recommend taking care or treating the conductive component first. Options usually include hearing aids, cochlear implants and surgical procedures. Therefore, it is a mixture of surgical or medical treatment and the use of hearing aids at the same time.
Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder (ANSD)
In this type of hearing loss, sound enters the ear naturally, but it isn’t systematized in a way the brain can understand. This is due to damage to the inner ear hair cells or hearing nerve. Sounds don’t reach the brain.
People can have a normal hearing test but can struggle to understand and comprehend speech sounds.
They hear sounds that fade in and out.
Treatment of auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder
Auditory training can help the brain relearn how to process noise into sound. It can augment your communication skills, making living with hearing loss less exhausting and frustrating. It can be done:
Visiting a physical or occupational therapist
Listening to audiobooks
Using smartphone apps
Treatment options may include:
Frequency modulation systems (FM)
Hearing-assistive technology (HAT)
Picture exchange communication system (PECS)
Other kinds of hearing loss
Unilateral or bilateral
Hearing loss can appear in one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
Pre-lingual or post-lingual
Hearing loss might appear before the person learns to talk (pre-lingual) or after they learn how to talk (post-lingual).
Symmetrical or asymmetrical
Hearing loss can take place in both ears (symmetrical) or in each ear (asymmetrical).
Fluctuating or stable
Hearing loss can get better with time or worse (fluctuating), depending on the situation. It might also stay the same over time (stable).
Congenital or acquired/delayed onset
Hearing loss might be present at birth (congenital) or might appear sometime after (acquired/delayed onset.
Progressive or sudden
Hearing loss can either happen very quickly over time (sudden) or can get worse over time (progressive).
No matter which type of hearing loss you have, leaving your hearing untreated can dramatically influence your health and life. Seek treatment with today’s technology and medical options available. Get your ears checked regularly to keep track of the changes happening to your hearing as you age.
Hearing tests can help you find out what type of hearing loss you are experiencing and decide what appropriate treatments are needed.
If you are experiencing new sudden hearing loss or aren't sure what to do next we suggest that you seek out a medical professional. You can take free hearing test with your expert. You can also find widex hearing aids store near you in UAE (United Arab Emirates).