Texas Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists, LLP - Bedford, Grapevine, Southlake, and Flower Mound, TX

Shot of a senior man drinking coffee and looking thoughtfully out of a window wondering about hearing loss.

Have you ever bought one of those “one size fits all” t-shirts only to be disappointed (and surprised) when the shirt does not, in fact, fit as advertised? That’s truly annoying. There aren’t actually very many “one size fits all” with anything in the real world. That’s not only true with clothing, it’s also true with medical conditions such as hearing loss. This can be true for many reasons.

So what’s the cause of hearing loss? And what is the most prevalent type of hearing loss? Well, that’s exactly what we intend to explore.

There are different kinds of hearing loss

Everyone’s hearing loss situation will be as individual as they are. Maybe you hear perfectly well at the office, but not in a noisy restaurant. Or, maybe specific frequencies of sound get lost. There are a wide variety of forms that your hearing loss can take.

The root cause of your hearing loss will determine how it manifests. Because your ear is a very complex little organ, there are lots of things that can go wrong.

How your hearing works

It’s useful to get an idea of how hearing is supposed to work before we can understand what level of hearing loss requires a hearing aid. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Outer ear: This is the portion of the ear that you can see. It’s where you are initially exposed to a “sound”. Sounds are effectively guided into your middle ear for further processing due to the shape of your outer ear.
  • 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: Your stereocilia are found hear. These delicate hairs detect vibrations and begin translating those vibrations into electrical signals. Your cochlea plays a role in this too. These electrical signals are then transmitted to your brain.
  • Auditory nerve: This nerve is located in your ear, and it’s responsible for channeling and directing this electrical energy towards your brain.
  • Auditory system: From your brain to your outer ear, the “auditory system” encompasses all of the parts discussed above. It’s essential to understand that all of these elements are constantly working together and in unison with one another. In other words, the system is interconnected, so any issue in one area will typically affect the performance of the entire system.

Hearing loss varieties

There are multiple types of hearing loss because there are multiple parts of the ear. The underlying cause of your hearing loss will determine which type of hearing loss you develop.

The common types of hearing loss include:

  • Conductive hearing loss: This type of hearing loss happens because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, frequently in the outer or middle ear. Usually, fluid or inflammation is the cause of this blockage (this typically happens, for instance, when you have an ear infection). A growth in the ear can occasionally cause conductive hearing loss. Typically, with conductive hearing loss, your hearing will return to normal once 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 permanent type of hearing loss. Because of this, people are usually encouraged to prevent this type of hearing loss by using hearing protection. Even though sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, it can be effectively treated with hearing aids.
  • Mixed hearing loss: It’s also possible to experience a combination of sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. This can often be challenging to treat because the hearing loss is coming from different places.
  • Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: It’s relatively rare for somebody to develop ANSD. When sound isn’t properly transmitted from your ear to your brain, this type of hearing loss happens. A device called a cochlear implant is usually used to manage this kind of hearing loss.

The desired results are the same even though the treatment option will vary for each form of hearing loss: to improve or preserve your ability to hear.

Hearing loss types have variations

And that isn’t all! Any of these normal kinds of hearing loss can be categorized further (and more specifically). For example, hearing loss can also be classified as:

  • Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: It’s possible to experience hearing loss in one ear (unilateral), or in both (bilateral).
  • Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to speak, it’s known as pre-lingual. If your hearing loss developed after you learned to talk, it’s known as post-lingual. This will affect the way hearing loss is addressed.
  • 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.
  • Fluctuating or stable: If your hearing loss tends to appear and disappear, it may be referred to as fluctuating. Stable hearing loss remains at around the same level.
  • Acquired hearing loss: Hearing loss that happens due to outside causes (like damage).
  • Congenital hearing loss: Hearing loss you were born with.
  • High frequency vs. low frequency: You may experience more trouble hearing high or low-frequency sounds. Your hearing loss can then be categorized as one or the other.
  • Progressive or sudden: You have “progressive” hearing loss if it gradually gets worse over time. Hearing loss that erupts or presents instantly is known as “sudden”.

That might seem like a lot, and it is. But your hearing loss will be more successfully managed when we’re able to use these classifications.

Time to have a hearing exam

So how can you be sure which of these classifications pertains to your hearing loss scenario? Self-diagnosis of hearing loss isn’t, regrettably, something that is at all accurate. It will be hard for you to know, for instance, whether your cochlea is working properly.

But you can get a hearing test to find out precisely what’s going on. Your loss of hearing is kind of like a “check engine” light. We can help you figure out what type of hearing loss you’re dealing with by hooking you up to a wide range of modern technology.

So contact us as soon as you can and make an appointment to find out what’s happening.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.