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Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss has many different causes. Medications, heredity, repeated exposure to noise at work, the aging process, infections, a loud blast or injury can all affect our hearing. Even hobbies such as skeet shooting, motorcycling or hunting without ear protection impacts our hearing over time.

Learn more about the two primary types of hearing loss, conductive & sensorineural, below or contact us directly for a free assessment. Find a hearing clinic near you today and work with a hearing healthcare specialist to identify your specific type of hearing loss.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Hearing loss caused by a problem in the outer or middle ear is called conductive hearing loss.

Common causes and solutions for the Outer Ear include:

Outer Ear Infection - an infection that mainly affects the outer ear canal, and may also affect the pinna itself. A bacterial infection of this type often occurs during or after a vacation that involves swimming, and is also called “diver’s ear” or “surfer’s ear”. It is usually painful and causes a noticeable impairment of hearing.

An outer ear infection can be resolved by thoroughly cleaning and rinsing to remove any foreign bodies. Any inflammation can then be treated with medication.

Excessive Wax - The ear canal can be blocked by an overproduction of ear wax, or by inappropriate cleaning. A blockage of this type can cause severe reduction in hearing.

Ears that become blocked with wax can be rinsed with warm water by your physician or ENT (Ear-Nose-Throat) doctor.

Foreign Bodies - Mechanical damage to the outer ear, or blockage of the ear canal, can be caused by careless use of cotton swabs to clean the ear.

If you feel you may have damaged your ear in this way, have your doctor examine the injury, and in the future use only clean warm water. It is generally advised to never use cotton swabs.

Common causes and solutions for the Middle Ear include:

Middle Ear Infection - A viral or bacterial inflammation that is typically very painful. It is transmitted through the Eustachian tubes from the nasal cavity, or through the bloodstream. Hearing in the affected ear is severely impaired during the infection.

Acute infections of the middle ear can usually be treated by medication. Consult with your physician or ENT doctor for the best course of action.

Perforated Ear Drum - The ear drum can be damaged by foreign bodies, or by an infection. In some cases, perforation can result from a blow on the ear or a very loud bang. A hole in the ear drum causes deterioration in hearing.

Thankfully, damage to the ear drum will often heal itself. It is important to keep the ear completely dry, including when showering or bathing. If the ear drum does not heal by itself, surgery will be necessary to reverse the hearing loss.

Otosclerosis - Otosclerosis causes ossification (bone formation), which has an adverse effect on the mobility of the stapes. The result is a slowly developing loss of conductive hearing. This disorder is commonly accompanied by a ringing in the ears (tinnitus).

Unfortunately, it is not possible to treat otosclerosis by medication currently. In certain cases, surgery is able to reduce hearing loss. However, in conductive hearing loss caused by otosclerosis, hearing can be greatly improved by hearing aids. 

The best way to diagnose conductive hearing loss is by working with a hearing healthcare professional.  Find a nearby hearing clinic and request a free appointment for help identifying hearing loss.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Hearing loss caused by damage to the inner ear is called perceptive, or sensorineural, hearing loss. Common causes and solutions for sensorineural hearing loss are:

Age-related Hearing Loss (presbyacusis) - Age-relate hearing loss is caused by external factors - in particular, many years of exposure to noise at home or at work. This exposure causes damage to the fine sensory hair cells, and thus affects the transmission of signals to the auditory nerves. Presbyacusis usually beings between the ages of 55 and 65, affecting the higher frequency ranges, usually in both ears.

Treatment of presbyacusis using medication is not possible, but properly adjusted hearing aids can help to greatly compensate for hearing loss of this type.

Blast Trauma - Blast trauma occurs when the effects of a very load noise cause damage to the inner ear. This can even happen if harmful noise is only of very brief duration (1 - 3 milliseconds). The result is a feeling of that the ears are blocked, a loss of hearing, or tinnitus.

Hearing usually improves during the hours following the incident. However, there can be lasting damage to the hearing. Properly adjusted hearing aids can greatly improve the capability to hear well.

Poisoning of the Nerve Cells (ototoxicity) - In medicine, the term ototoxicity refers to the harmful effects of substances on the inner ear, especially the sensory cells of the organs of hearing balance, or the corresponding cranial nerves.

Because it is ultimately the nerve cells that are affected, damage is usually permanent, leading to hearing loss or deafness with balance disorders. Properly adjusted hearing aids can be of great help in hearing loss of this type.

Do you still have questions about hearing loss? Book an appointment with a Connect Hearing professional; find a hearing clinic near you.

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