Hearing loss is a common condition in which an individual has difficulty hearing and interpreting sounds. Although the condition is most commonly found in older populations, hearing loss can affect any individual from the time they are born to when they grow old. The types of hearing loss and their treatments are usually categorized by their causes.
The three most commonly encountered types of hearing loss are sensorineural, conductive, and “mixed,” which is simply a combination of the two.
Degrees of Hearing Impairment
There are different degrees of hearing impairment which can be determined by a formal hearing test – also known as an audiogram. The degree of hearing is commonly determined by the range of decibels you can hear.
Those with normal hearing can generally hear sounds within the range of 0 to 25 dB. Sounds above 25 dB sound “loud” for a person with normal hearing. People with normal hearing should be able to make out sounds as faint as breathing (which is approximately 10 dB).
An individual with mild hearing loss hears sounds between 26 and 40 dB and moderate hearing loss ranges from 41 to 55 dB. People with mild to moderate hearing loss may have trouble following conversations in public areas, such as streets or restaurants.
Moderately severe hearing loss ranges from 56 to 70 dB and severe hearing loss is in the range of 71 to 90 dB. Profound hearing loss is any range greater than 90 dB. Those with severe or profound hearing loss may only hear loud sounds like an airplane taking off, chainsaw, or car horn.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is most common in populations older than 65 years. Sensorineural hearing loss is hearing impairment that results from a disease of the inner ear or a cochlear or nerve liaison. Although there are many causes of sensorineural hearing loss, the most common causes include advanced age, disease, certain medications (such as high-dose aspirin), and noise exposure.
As people age, structures of the inner ear become less elastic and less responsive to the environment. This makes softer sounds harder to hear the older you become.
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a type of permanent sensorineural hearing impairment that results from prolonged exposure to loud noises. This prolonged exposure damages the hair cells in the inner ear which cannot be reversed or treated. NIHL has been a rising cause of hearing loss in North America in the past decade. Since the rise of earbuds and headphones, people have been harming their ears for hours – not realizing it until it’s too late.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss is attributed to problems in the ear canal, eardrum, or middle ear that prevents sound from traveling normally to the inner ear. Common causes include ear infections, trauma, fluid buildup, or objects in the ear (such as earwax).
Children commonly experience hearing loss due to ear infections. Other symptoms include a sensation of pain and itchiness in which sounds are muffled.