Are There Different Types of Hearing Loss?

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

Have you ever seen a t-shirt promoted as “one size fits all” but when you went to put it on, you were disheartened to find that it didn’t fit at all? It’s sort of a bummer, isn’t it? There aren’t really very many “one size fits all” with anything in the real world. That’s not only relevant with clothing, it’s also true with medical conditions like hearing loss. This can be accurate for many reasons.

So what are the most prevalent types of hearing loss and what causes them? Let’s find out!

Hearing loss comes in different types

Everybody’s hearing loss scenario will be as individual as they are. Perhaps you hear perfectly well at the office, but not in a noisy restaurant. Or perhaps you only have difficulty with high or low-pitched sounds. Your hearing loss can take a wide range of shapes.

How your hearing loss presents, in part, may be determined by what’s causing your symptoms to begin with. Because your ear is a rather complex little organ, there are lots of things that can go wrong.

How does hearing work?

It’s helpful to get an idea of how hearing is supposed to work before we can figure out 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’re first 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 eardrum and some tiny bones are what your middle ear is composed of (Yes, there are some tiny little bones in there).
  • Inner ear: This is where your stereocilia are found. Vibration is picked up by these little hairs which are then transformed into electrical energy. Your cochlea plays a part in this too. Our brain then receives these electrical signals.
  • Auditory nerve: This nerve directs these electrical signals to the brain.
  • Auditory system: All of the components listed above, from your brain to your outer ear, are components of your “auditory system”. The overall hearing process depends on all of these elements working in unison with each other. Put simply, the system is interconnected, so any issue in one area will typically affect the performance of the whole system.

Types of hearing loss

Because there are multiple parts of your auditory system, there are (as a result) multiple forms of hearing loss. Which type you develop will depend on the underlying cause.

Here are some of the most common causes:

  • Conductive hearing loss: This form of hearing loss occurs because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, frequently in the middle or outer ear. typically, this blockage is caused by fluid or inflammation (this usually happens, for example, when you have an ear infection). Sometimes, conductive hearing loss can be the result of a growth in the ear canal. Normally, with conductive hearing loss, your hearing will return to normal as soon as the blockage has been removed.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss: When the fragile hairs that detect sound, called stereocilia, are damaged by loud sound they are usually destroyed. Normally, this is a chronic, progressive and permanent form of hearing loss. Because of this, individuals are usually encouraged to avoid 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 sometimes happens that somebody will experience both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss at the same time. This can sometimes be hard to treat because the hearing loss is coming from different places.
  • Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: ANSD is a relatively rare condition. When sound isn’t properly transmitted from your ear to your brain, this type of hearing loss occurs. ANSD can usually be treated with a device known as a cochlear implant.

Each type of hearing loss calls for a different treatment method, but the desired results are often the same: improving your hearing ability.

Hearing loss types have variations

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

  • Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either going through hearing loss in only one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
  • Congenital hearing loss: Hearing loss you were born with.
  • Pre-lingual or post-lingual: Hearing loss is known as pre-lingual when it develops before you learned to speak. Hearing loss is post-lingual when it develops after you learned to speak. This will affect the way hearing loss is managed.
  • Acquired hearing loss: If you develop hearing loss as a result of external causes, such as damage, it’s called “acquired”.
  • Progressive or sudden: Hearing loss that gradually worsens over time is called “progressive”. If your hearing loss arises all at once, it’s called “sudden”.
  • High frequency vs. low frequency: Your hearing loss can be categorized as one or the other depending on what frequency range is getting lost.
  • Symmetrical or asymmetrical: This tells you whether your hearing loss is equal in both ears or unequal in both ears.
  • Fluctuating or stable: Fluctuating hearing loss refers to hearing loss that appears and disappears. Stable hearing loss stays at relatively the same level.

That might seem like a lot, and it is. The point is that each classification helps us more accurately and effectively address your symptoms.

A hearing test is in order

So how do you know which type, and which sub-type, of hearing loss you’re experiencing? Self-diagnosis of hearing loss isn’t, regrettably, something that’s at all accurate. As an example, is your cochlea functioning properly, how would you know?

But you can get a hearing exam to determine precisely what’s happening. It’s like when you have a check engine light on in your car and you take it to a qualified 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 determine what’s going on is to schedule an appointment with us today!


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.

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