Types of Hearing Loss

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Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss. It occurs when the microscopic hairs of the inner ear are damaged due to age, noise, medications, limited blood supply, or trauma. It may be present at birth and can be hereditary. Symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss include hearing but not understanding, feeling like people mumble, and the loss of speech clarity. The most common treatment for sensorineural hearing loss is hearing aids.

Conductive hearing loss occurs with ear infections and fluid, if the eardrum has a hole, or when a skin cyst is present in the middle ear. Symptoms of conductive hearing loss include difficulty hearing loudness and a sensation of fullness in the ear. When conductive hearing loss is diagnosed, a referral is usually made to an ear-nose-throat physician for medical management.

Mixed hearing loss occurs when a person has both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss together-- such as a person born with hearing loss who develops an ear infection. Symptoms include difficulty understanding speech clarity as well as difficulty hearing loudness. Hearing aids are often prescribed in coordination with medical management.

Retrocochlear hearing loss occurs when a tumor or other lesion is found on the hearing and balance nerve. Fortunately, this type of hearing loss is uncommon. Symptoms may include difficulty understanding speech clarity, facial numbness, and imbalance. Hearing aids are often prescribed in coordination with medical management.

Central hearing loss occurs when the structures of the ear function normally, but the parts of the brain that process sound do not work properly. Central hearing loss is often seen in children who are struggling educationally. Treatments may include the use of sound systems in the classroom and listening therapy.

Tinnitus is the medical term for ringing or buzzing in the ears. It may occur as a symptom with hearing loss but can also occur by itself. Strategies for the management of tinnitus include hearing aids, sound generators, and informational counseling.