The Different Types of Hearing Loss Explained

Hearing loss affects approximately 12% of the US population - and over 38 million Americans are affected by significant hearing loss. Hearing loss is a problem that affects all kinds of people, although it is a more common problem for the elderly.

Essentially, there are four main types of hearing loss:

Conductive hearing loss is the term used when there is a problem with the mechanism in the ear that conducts sound from the external environment to the inner ear. This type of hearing loss usually is due to problems with the external auditory canal, the ear drum, or the middle ear. For many individuals, medication or surgery prove to be effective in correcting the problem. If the hearing loss can't be corrected via these means, a hearing aid can work wonders for most folks.

Sensorineural hearing loss is the term used to describe a problem with the nerve or organ of hearing. Common problems of this type are damage to the inner ear or cochlea, the auditory nerve, or the auditory centers in the brain. Individuals with sensorineural hearing loss might benefit from a hearing aid, or a cochlear implant and/or communication therapy in more severe cases.

Mixed hearing loss is just that - it is hearing loss that includes problems from both of the above listed types.

Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder is another type of hearing loss that is less common than the others. It occurs when sound enters the ear in a normal fashion, but due to damage to the inner ear or nerve endings inside of the ear, sound cannot be processed in a way that the brain can properly make sense of.

There are other things to keep in mind when describing hearing loss. An individual's degree of hearing loss is often described as mild, moderate, severe, or profound. Someone with mild hearing loss may have difficulty hearing soft speech sounds, whereas someone with moderate hearing loss will have a lot of difficulty hearing someone speak at all. Someone with severe hearing loss will hear no speech when someone is speaking at a normal volume, and will only hear loud sounds. An individual with profound hearing loss will not hear any speech whatsoever, and will likely only hear very loud sounds.

Hearing loss is often also described as unilateral or bilateral (in one ear or both), pre-lingual or post-lingual (hearing loss that occurred before or after an individual learned to speak), symmetrical or asymmetrical (the amount of hearing loss is the same or different in each ear), sudden or progressive (hearing loss occurred all of a sudden or over time), and congenital or acquired (present at birth or appearing later in life).

If you are currently experiencing hearing loss, you should speak to a professional about it sooner than later. The faster you take a hearing test, the faster you'll be on your way to improving your situation.

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