Hearing loss affects people of all ages and can be caused by many different factors. Knowing what symptoms correlate with which types of hearing loss can help you detect changes early before they worsen.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss or “nerve loss” originates in the inner ear and is the most common type. It is caused by damage to the inner hair cells and once they are damaged, they cannot regenerate. In most cases sensorineural hearing loss is due to genetic factors but excessive noise exposure or changes in the inner ear due to the natural aging process can also play a part in its development. Treatment for this type of hearing loss is viable but it not curable.
Sensorineural hearing loss causes a reduction in the quality of sound that is heard. A person who suffers from this type may be able to hear sounds at a ‘normal’ volume, but it seems distorted and difficult to comprehend. They may have trouble engaging in conversations with multiple people or in crowded areas and may often ask those around them to repeat themselves. This type of hearing loss can also make music less enjoyable because the sound becomes harsh and “fuzzy”. Less common symptoms are dizziness or prolonged tinnitus.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss occurs when something disrupts the conduction of sound through the outer or middle ear. Some causes include build-up or obstruction of the ear canal, a hole in the eardrum, and/or middle ear infection with fluid buildup behind the eardrum. Conductive hearing loss can range from mild to moderate in severity but can often be treated medically, and in many cases can be cured entirely.
Conductive hearing loss causes a reduction in volume, making sounds appear quieter. People suffering from this type of hearing loss have trouble detecting faint sounds and may need to turn up the volume on their television or phone to hear it properly.
People with conductive hearing loss often have a pairing infection in the ear or wax buildup which may cause ear pain, pressure, or drainage.
Tinnitus refers to a ringing or buzzing noise in the ears. While people experience periodic ringing in the ears, prolonged tinnitus could indicate possible hearing loss. Although it can be frustrating, it is not usually an indicator of a serious medical condition.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss refers to when a combination of conductive and sensorineural loss take place in the inner and or middle/outer ear at the same time. An example of a mixed hearing loss may be someone with inner ear hair cell damage that at the same time has an ear infection which is stopping the eardrum from vibrating normally. The conductive portion of a mixed hearing loss can often be medically treated, but even after successful treatment, the underlying sensorineural hearing loss is permanent and may warrant a hearing aid.
Do I suffer from hearing loss?
The following has been adapted from a self-assessment tool created by the American Academy of Otolaryngology. If you answer “yes” to two or more of these questions, you may want to and schedule a hearing exam.
- Do people seem to mumble or speak in a softer voice?
- Do you feel tired or irritable after a long conversation?
- Do you tend to miss key words in a sentence?
- Do you often need to ask people to repeat themselves?
- Do you have difficulty understanding the conversation in a crowded room?
- Do you often turn the volume up on the TV or radio?
- Does background noise bother you?
- Is it sometimes hard to hear the conversation on the telephone?
- Do you sometimes not hear the doorbell or telephone ring?
- Are your family or friends complaining about your hearing?