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 outer or middle ear. Generally, conductive hearing losses are medically treatable and can result in a complete or partial improvement in hearing through medication or surgery. Causes may include conditions such as congenital malformation of the ossicles (abnormal ear hearing bones), ear infection or fluid in the ear, otosclerosis (stapes fixation), or cerumen (earwax) impaction.
Sensorineural hearing losses result from inner ear or auditory nerve dysfunction. This type of hearing loss is most the prevalent hearing loss in adults, and is usually permanent. Hearing aids are the appropriate treatment for this type of hearing loss. See the Hearing Aids section for more information. Causes of this type of hearing loss include genetics, noise exposure, ototoxic medications, physical or acoustic trauma, inner ear infection, and the natural aging process (presbycusis).
A mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing losses. Hearing aids can be beneficial for this type of hearing loss, but a complete otologic and audiologic work-up is medically advised.
Signs of Hearing Loss
It is estimated that 31.5 million people have 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 tolerable 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.