Hearing problems are labeled in a number of ways. The specific part of the auditory pathway affected determines the classification. The hearing loss may be sensorineural, conductive, functional, central or mixed. The starting point in creating a therapy plan is to properly establish the kind of hearing impairment.
Sensorineural hearing loss
This type of hearing loss accounts for over 90% of the instances in which a hearing aid is worn. Sensorineural hearing loss is due to damage in the interior of the ear or to the acoustic nerve, which keeps sound signals from being transmitted to the brain. Also referred to as retrocochlear hearing loss or nerve deafness, the damage is for the most part permanent, although improvements in technology have made it possible for some formerly untreatable cases to be improved.
The most common factors that cause sensorineural hearing loss are the aging process, extended exposure to noise, issues with circulation of blood to the interior of the ear, fluid disturbance in the inner ear, medications that cause injury to the ear, some diseases, genetics and issues with the auditory nerve.
Hearing aids are suitable for most people who have this type of hearing loss, but in more severe cases, a cochlear implant may help bring back hearing to those for whom a typical hearing aid is not enough.
Conductive hearing loss
In situations where sound waves aren’t properly conducted to the interior of the ear through the outer and middle ear, conductive hearing loss arises. Conductive hearing loss is very widespread and can be due to a buildup of ear wax, an accumulation of moisture in the eustacian tube, which keeps the eardrum from moving properly, a middle ear infection, a perforated eardrum, disease of the tiny bones of the middle ear or blockages in the ear canal.
Most instances of this type of hearing loss are reversible, presuming there is no permanent damage to the structures of the middle ear, and with treatment the issue usually clears up fairly quickly. For some patients a surgical procedure can help to correct the condition or a hearing aid may be recommended.
Central hearing loss
This condition arises when an issue in the CNS (central nervous system) prevents sound signals from being processed by the brain. Affected individuals can seemingly hear perfectly well, but can’t decode or decipher what is being said. Numerous cases involve a problem with the individual’s capacity to properly filter rival sounds. For instance, most of us can have a conversation with traffic noise in the background, but individuals with central hearing loss have a really hard time with this.
Functional hearing loss
A rare occurrence, this type of hearing loss does not have a psysiological explanation. This condition is due to psychological or emotional condition in which the person’s physical ability to hear is found to be normal, but they do not seem to be able to hear.
Mixed hearing loss
As the term suggests, mixed hearing loss is a blend of multiple types of hearing loss – conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Although there are a few other kinds of hearing loss, the combination of these two is most common.