What are the Different Categories of Hearing Loss?

Atlanta Hearing Associates' Blog.

Hearing loss is classified in a variety of ways. The exact part of the auditory system affected determines the categorization. In this brief article we present a summary of 5 types – sensorineural, conductive, mixed, functional and central. The first step in creating a therapy plan is to properly establish the kind of hearing impairment.

Conductive hearing loss

When sound waves aren’t completely conducted to the inner ear through the parts of the outer and middle ear, conductive hearing loss arises. Conductive hearing loss is quite widespread and could be caused by an accumulation of ear wax, a buildup of fluid in the eustacian tube, which keeps the eardrum from moving properly, a middle ear infection, a perforated eardrum, disease of the bones of the middle ear and other blockages in the ear canal.

The majority of instances of this type of hearing loss are reversible, assuming there isn’t any permanent damage to the regions of the middle ear, and with treatment the problem usually resolves in a short amount of time. In some cases surgery can assist in correcting the issue or a hearing aid may be fitted.

Sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss accounts for more than 90 percent of the instances in which a hearing aid is worn. It is the result of damage in the interior of the ear or to the acoustic nerve, which keeps sound signals from being transmitted to the brain. Also referred to as retrocochlear hearing loss or nerve deafness, the damage is more often than not irreversible, though advances in modern technology have enabled some formerly untreatable cases to be improved.

The most frequent reasons behind sensorineural hearing loss are aging, prolonged exposure to noise, issues with blood flow to the inner ear, fluid disturbance in the inner ear, medicines that cause injury to the ear, a handful of diseases, genetics and problems with the auditory nerve.

Hearing aids are suitable for the majority of people who have sensorineural hearing loss, but in more severe cases, a cochlear implant may help restore hearing to those individuals for whom a standard hearing aid is insufficient.

Functional hearing loss

A rare occurrence, functional hearing loss does not have a psysiological explanation. Functional hearing loss is caused by an emotional or psychological problem in which the person’s physical hearing is found to be normal, however they are not able to hear.

Central hearing loss

This condition arises in situations where a problem in the central nervous system prevents sound signals from being processed and interpreted by the brain. The person affected can seemingly hear perfectly well, but can’t understand or interpret what the speaker is saying. Many cases involve a problem with the individual’s capacity to properly filter competing sounds. For example, most of us can hold a conversation while there is street traffic in the background, but individuals with central hearing loss have a difficult time doing so.

Mixed hearing loss

As suggested by the term, mixed hearing loss is a mixture of different types of hearing loss, in this case the combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Though there are a few other kinds of hearing loss, the combination of these two is most frequent.

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.