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The Three Different Types of Hearing Loss

Did you know that one in six Australians have some form of hearing loss? Economists predict that this will rise to one in four by 2050. While this increase is largely linked to an aging population, not all hearing loss is age-related. Hearing loss affects Australians of all ages and stages and happens from a wide range of causes. Learn more about the different types of hearing loss, how they are caused, and how they are treated.

Each person’s hearing loss is completely unique to them – like a fingerprint. However, hearing loss does fall into three different categories.

Sensorineural hearing loss

This is the most common type of hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss is when the inner ear nerves are damaged. When these nerves and the delicate hair cells in the cochlea are damaged, they can’t transmit signals to the brain effectively. This leads to unclear or muffled speech and sound.

The causes of sensorineural hearing loss include the natural ageing process (presbycusis), exposure to loud noise, head trauma, illness or infection, certain medications, birth defects, and genetic or hereditary hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss is permanent. It cannot be reversed through medication or surgery. Hearing aids are very effective in treating this type of hearing loss.

Conductive hearing loss

This type of hearing loss is most commonly attributed to something blocking the middle or outer ear. This means that sound can’t properly ‘conduct’ or travel to the inner ear and onwards to the brain. Someone suffering conductive hearing loss may hear sounds more quietly than usual.

Common causes of conductive hearing loss include an ear infection, fluid or wax build-up, allergic reaction, benign tumour, blocked Eustachian tubes, perforated eardrum, a foreign body in the ear canal or a defect in the ear anatomy.

Depending on the cause, conductive hearing loss can be treated through medication, surgery or by using hearing aids. Often, this type of hearing loss is temporary, and treatment will reverse the symptoms, like in the case of an ear infection.

Mixed hearing loss

This is a combination of both types of hearing loss discussed above. This means there is damage or issues in the inner ear as well as either the outer or middle ear. Factors that cause the above two types of hearing loss can combine to cause a mixed hearing loss. 

Mixed hearing loss can be treated through a combination of medicine, surgical means and hearing aid technology.

Let One of Our Professionals Properly Diagnose Your Hearing Loss Type

Only a hearing health professional can accurately diagnose which specific type or types of hearing loss you are experiencing. If you suspect you might have hearing loss, book a free hearing check at your local ihear clinic today. Once they can pinpoint the issue, it’s onwards and upwards on your journey to better hearing health.