Understanding the way in which we hear is the first step in understanding the numerous causes of hearing loss and the different forms of hearing loss. We collect sounds via the outer ear, which isn’t only the portion of the ear on the outside of our heads, but also the ear canal and the eardrum. The middle ear includes the eardrum as well, but additionally consists of the ossicles (three small bones that transform the vibrations of sound into information and transmit them to the inner ear). The inner ear has three major parts – the cochlea, the 2 semi-circular canals (important for balance) and the acoustic nerves which transfer the impulses to the brain. This is an incredibly complex mechanism, and troubles can arise in any part of it that produce hearing loss. Four distinct classifications make up what is collectively called “hearing loss.”
Something hindering the transmission of sound through the outer or middle ear is termed conductive hearing loss. This type of hearing loss can often be remedied by medication or a surgical procedure; if surgery is not a possibility, it can be treated with hearing aids.
Sensorineural hearing loss generally refers to damage to the hair cells of the inner ear, to the cochlea, or sometimes to the acoustic nerves. Sensorineural hearing loss can usually not be treated using medication or surgery, but its effects can be minimized using hearing aids to allow the person to hear more normally.
The third classification is mixed hearing loss, which is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, and which can often be treated using the same combinations of surgery, medication, and hearing aids.
Damage to the inner ear or auditory nerves preventing a message from being understood by our brain that entered the ear normally, is called central hearing loss.
Spanning each of these four main classifications are sub-categories of degree, meaning that the hearing loss may be mid-level, moderate, severe, or profound. Additional sub-categories include whether the hearing loss occurs in one ear or both ears (unilateral vs. bilateral), whether it occurs at the same degree in both ears (symmetrical vs. asymmetrical), and whether the hearing loss happened before or after the person learned to speak (pre-lingual vs post-lingual). Hearing loss can also be categorized as having occurred slowly or gradually (progressive vs. sudden), whether the degree of loss changes and gets better at times or stays the same (fluctuating vs. stable), and whether the loss was present at birth or developed later in life (congenital vs. acquired). The most important thing to bear in mind, however, is that whatever type of hearing loss you may have incurred, our specialists can help you to diagnose and treat it properly.