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Types of Hearing Loss And How to Treat Them

There are three main types of hearing loss and treatment options differ for each. Any time a person experiences hearing loss of any kind, they suffer some common effects including isolation from loved ones, communication difficulties and trouble reaching personal or professional goals. That’s why it’s important to address hearing issues the correct way based on an individual’s needs. Hearing loss is categorized into three major types:
  • Conductive hearing loss
  • Sensorineural hearing loss
  • Mixed hearing loss

Conductive Hearing Loss: When Sound Can’t Get Through

If you are diagnosed with conductive hearing loss, it means you are having a problem that keeps sound from traveling effectively through the outer ear canal to the eardrum and the small bones of the middle ear. Conductive hearing loss is linked to a variety of causes including ear infections, a congenital malformation of the outer or middle ear, impacted earwax, a perforated eardrum or swimmer’s ear. It is often treatable with either surgery (especially for congenital causes) or medication (such as antibiotics for ear infections).

The Issue Is Deeper in Sensorineural Hearing Loss

The second major type of hearing loss is sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL), also known as nerve-related hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear or the nerves that connect the inner ear to the brain. Primary causes of this type of hearing loss include head trauma, exposure to loud noise, illnesses, ototoxic medications (drugs that harm hearing) and aging. Experts agree that sensorineural hearing loss is harder to treat than conductive hearing loss, although physicians have had success with both medical devices like hearing aids and, less commonly, surgical interventions. The damage that causes this type of hearing loss is often irreversible. However, addressing it quickly can help slow down its progression, making it imperative to seek treatment when symptoms are noticed.

When the Two Types are Mixed

Some individuals seeking treatment for hearing loss discover that they have mixed hearing loss, or a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. In this case, an audiologist discovers damage in both a patient’s outer or middle ear and the inner ear. Because conductive hearing loss is more easily treated, the accepted course of treatment for mixed hearing loss is to address the conductive component first, and that step alone can often lead to marked improvement.

Hearing Aids Can Potentially Help All Types of Hearing Loss

Each case of hearing loss is unique, and it is vitally important that a person whose hearing is deteriorating undergo a thorough audiological assessment by a specialist. In many instances of conductive, sensorineural or mixed hearing loss, the best treatment is a hearing aid that is customized for individual needs basd on lifestyle and the degree of hearing loss. One-size-fits-all or wholesale hearing instruments aren’t ideal for advanced or deteriorating hearing loss. Instead, trained specialists should help give a precise diagnosis and examine the appropriate treatment options. Make an appointment today to see the difference that the right hearing aids can make.

Have you experienced successful treatment for hearing loss? Share your story below.

Steve Brinkman
Steve has been Beltone's Director of Customer Care for the last 14 years. His goal is to partner with our national network of 1,500 Beltone locations to help ensure the best possible hearing care experience for our patients. More about Steve

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