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The two main types of hearing loss: here’s how they work and what you can do to prevent them

If you’ve ever had a hearing test or done any research on hearing loss, you’ve likely heard of two different types of hearing loss: Sensorineural and Conductive. These two types of hearing loss along with Mixed hearing loss, which is a combination of the two, can come from a wide array of sources including aging and exposure to loud abrupt noises. When you get your hearing tested, your Hearing Care Professional can usually pinpoint exactly where your hearing loss originates from and, depending on the source, can be classified as Sensorineural, Conductive or Mixed. Here's how each type of hearing loss works and some simple tips for preventing them.

Sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss comes from deterioration or damage to your inner ear, primarily your “sensory organ”, which refers to the Cochlea (the shell-shaped organ in your inner ear) and the tiny hairs inside the Cochlea that assist in transmitting sounds through to your brain. These tiny hairs can become damaged in a variety of ways but in the majority of cases the damage comes from extended amounts of environmental noise such as a noisy workplace or frequently listening to music too loudly for too long. Over time you’ll notice deterioration: not hearing your music as loud or as clear as you have before or missing words and sounds in busy places like the grocery store or at a restaurant.

Presbycusis – age related hearing loss – is also a form of Sensorineural hearing loss. Presbycusis can happen earlier in life but is more common among the older crowd as the tiny hairs in the cochlea become worn down over time.

Finally, ototoxicity (misuse or side effects of certain medications) can also cause sensorineural hearing loss. Therefore, it is important to consult with your doctor regarding the use of medications.

Conductive hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss, the second main type of hearing loss, happens in the middle and outer ear. “Conductive” refers to a problem conducting sound waves as they enter your outer ear and are eventually not picked up somewhere along the way to your inner ear. Conductive hearing loss commonly comes from damage caused by infection, foreign bodies and damage to your ear drum.

Hearing loss and your memory

When dealing with hearing loss, some people can experience something called Auditory Deprivation. Auditory Deprivation occurs when the brain loses its ability to process sounds due to the lack of stimulation over an extended period of time. Much like exercising your muscles, it's important to "exercise" your auditory system with sound in order to keep it stimulared. Hearing aids can provide this stimulation.

Simple ways you can prevent hearing loss

Ultimately if you’re experiencing any form of hearing loss don’t wait, go in for a hearing test and continue to do so on a regular basis; just as you would if you were getting your eyes checked or a cleaning at the dentist.

Other ways you can help prevent hearing loss are:

  • wear hearing protection at work if you work in a trade or industry that is commonly associated with a lot of noise
  • Keep the volume of your TV and music at a modest level, especially if you like to wear headphones
  • Wear earplugs at loud events like concerts and sporting events

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