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Learn About the Three Types of Hearing Loss

More than forty million Americans suffer from some type of hearing loss. There are many different things that can cause hearing loss, some of which can be treated with surgery or medicine. There are three main types of hearing loss including conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL), and mixed hearing loss.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss occurs due to problems with the ear drum, ear canal, or the little bones contained in the middle ear. The bones in the middle ear include the incus, malleus, and stapes. There are many things that can cause conductive hearing loss.

Possible Causes of Conductive Hearing Loss

  • Fluid build up in the middle ear
  • Ear infections
  • Malformation of the ear structures
  • Allergies
  • Perforated eardrums
  • Ear canal infection
  • Impacted earwax
  • Poor function of the Eustachian tube

There are different treatments for conductive hearing loss, depending on the cause. Malformations, or the congenital absence of the ear canal, can usually be corrected with surgery. When surgery is not possible, doctors may attempt to improve hearing through the use of conventional hearing aids, bone conduction hearing aids, or surgically implanted devices. Conductive hearing loss caused by infections, trauma, foreign bodies, and Eustachian tube dysfunction are generally treated with medications. Ear infections that become chronic, however, may need to be treated with surgery.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL)

Sensorineural hearing loss occurs due to problems with the inner ear. SNHL is also commonly referred to as nerve related hearing loss. There can be many different causes of sensorineural hearing loss, and treatment options are determined by the cause of the problem.

Possible Causes of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

  • Head trauma
  • Aging
  • Exposure to loud noises
  • Disease or virus
  • Autoimmune disease of the inner ear
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Inner ear malformations
  • Tumors

Sensorineural hearing loss caused by prolonged exposure to loud noises may respond to medical therapy. Hearing loss caused by head trauma or changes in air pressure can cause the fluid compartment of the inner ear to rupture. The leakage can be toxic and often requires emergency surgery to correct. If medical treatments such as medication and surgery are not an option, sensorineural hearing loss can be managed through the use of hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss refers to a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. Often, people with mixed hearing loss have some type of damage to the middle or outer ear, in addition to damage to the auditory nerve or inner ear. Treatments for mixed hearing loss depend on the exact cause of the issue. Causes of mixed hearing loss can include any of the causes of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. People with mixed hearing loss often require medical treatments in addition to the use of hearing aids or cochlear implants.

As doctors learn more about the types of hearing loss and their root causes, advancements in treatment options are being made. From hearing aids to cochlear implants, and other surgical procedures, doctors are doing more than ever to fix or manage the issue of hearing loss. To learn more about the types of hearing loss, consult the pages listed below.