Have you ever seen a t-shirt advertised as “one size fits all” but when you went to put it on, you were discouraged to find that it didn’t fit at all? It’s kind of a bummer, isn’t it? The truth is that there’s virtually nothing in the world that is really a “one size fits all”. That’s not only true with clothing, it’s also true with medical conditions such as hearing loss. This can be true for numerous reasons.
So what’s the cause of hearing loss? And what is the most common type of hearing loss? Let’s find out!
Hearing loss comes in different kinds
Everyone’s hearing loss scenario will be as individual as they are. Perhaps you hear perfectly well at the office, but not in a crowded restaurant. Or, maybe certain frequencies of sound get lost. There are numerous forms that your hearing loss can take.
The root cause of your hearing loss will dictate how it manifests. Because your ear is a rather complex little organ, there are any number of things that can go wrong.
How your hearing works
It’s helpful to get an idea of how hearing is supposed to work before we can determine what degree of hearing loss requires a hearing aid. Check out this breakdown:
- Outer ear: This is the portion of the ear that you can see. It’s where you are initially exposed to a “sound”. The shape of your ear helps direct those sounds into your middle ear (where they are processed further).
- Middle ear: The middle ear is composed of your eardrum and several tiny ear bones (yes, you have bones in your ear, but they are admittedly very, very tiny).
- Inner ear: Your stereocilia are found hear. These delicate hairs pick up on vibrations and start converting those vibrations into electrical signals. Your cochlea helps here, too. These electrical signals are then sent to your brain.
- Auditory nerve: This nerve is inside of your ear, and it’s responsible for transmitting and directing this electrical energy to your brain.
- Auditory system: All of the parts listed above, from your brain to your outer ear, are elements of your “auditory system”. It’s essential to recognize that all of these components are constantly working together and in concert with one another. 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) numerous forms of hearing loss. Which form you experience will depend on the underlying cause.
Here are some of the most common causes:
- Conductive hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss occurs because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, frequently in the outer or middle ear. Typically, 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. When the obstruction is removed, hearing will usually return to normal.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: When the tiny hairs that pick up sound, called stereocilia, are damaged by loud sound they are normally destroyed. This type of hearing loss is typically chronic, progressive, and permanent. Usually, people are encouraged to wear hearing protection to prevent this kind of hearing loss. If you’re dealing with sensorineural hearing loss, it can still be managed by devices like 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: ANSD is a rather rare condition. It occurs when the cochlea does not effectively transmit sounds from your ear to your brain. A device called a cochlear implant is normally used to treat this kind of hearing loss.
Each type of hearing loss requires a different treatment method, but the desired results are often the same: improving your hearing ability.
Hearing loss types have variations
And that’s not all! We can analyze and categorize these common forms of hearing loss even more specifically. Here are some examples:
- Fluctuating or stable: Fluctuating hearing loss describes hearing loss that comes and goes. Stable hearing loss stays at relatively the same level.
- High frequency vs. low frequency: You might experience more trouble hearing high or low-frequency sounds. Your hearing loss can then be categorized as one or the other.
- Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either experiencing hearing loss in just one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
- 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.
- Acquired hearing loss: If you experience hearing loss because of external causes, such as damage, it’s known as “acquired”.
- Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to speak, it’s called pre-lingual. If your hearing loss developed after you learned to talk, it’s known as post-lingual. This will impact the way hearing loss is managed.
- Progressive or sudden: Hearing loss that slowly gets worse over time is called “progressive”. If your hearing loss occurs all at once, it’s called “sudden”.
- Congenital hearing loss: If you’re born with hearing loss it’s called “congenital”.
If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. The point is that each classification helps us more accurately and effectively address your symptoms.
A hearing exam is in order
So how do you know what type, and which sub-type, of hearing loss you have? Unfortunately, hearing loss isn’t really something you can self-diagnose with much accuracy. It will be hard for you to determine, for example, whether your cochlea is working properly.
But you can get a hearing test to find out precisely what’s going on. 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 have by connecting you to a wide variety of modern technology.
So the best way to understand what’s going on is to make an appointment with us today!
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