Hearing Loss

Types of Hearing Loss

There are three major types of hearing loss:

Conductive hearing loss is due to a condition that blocks the conveyance of sound through the middle ear. Generally, conductive hearing losses are medically treated and result in a complete or partial improvement in hearing. Causes may include a congenital malformation, ear infection, or a cerumen (earwax) impaction.

Sensorineural hearing losses result from inner ear or auditory nerve dysfunction. This type of hearing loss is most prevalent and permanent. Hearing aids are the appropriate treatment for this type of hearing loss. See our Hearing Aids section for more information. Causes may include genetics, noise exposure, ototoxic medications, physical trauma, inner ear infection, or the natural aging process (presbycusis).

A mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Hearing aids can be beneficial for this type of hearing loss, but a complete otologic and audiologic work-up is required.

Signs of Hearing Loss

It is estimated that 31.5 million people report a hearing problem. Contrary to popular belief, hearing loss affects more than just the aging population. In fact, 65% of people with hearing loss are under the age of 65.

You might have hearing loss if you:

  • ask for repetition
  • misunderstand certain words or sounds
  • require the TV or radio to be louder than what is tolerant for others
  • have difficulty sorting out speech from background noise
  • have difficulty in group conversations
  • experience a ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

Untreated Hearing Loss

Hearing loss negatively impacts quality of life. Untreated hearing loss is linked with depression, anxiety, and related symptoms. Hearing loss also negatively impacts:

  • communication in relationships
  • ease in communication
  • participation in group or social activities
  • any and all communication partners

In kids and teens, even mild, minimal, or unilateral (in one ear) hearing losses are linked to greater incidences of academic difficulties. More moderate hearing losses in younger populations will also impede appropriate speech and language development.

Aside from the effect on psychological and social function from untreated hearing loss, the adult population also faces reduced job performance and earning power.