In the same way that there are many causes of hearing loss, there are many distinct forms of hearing loss; understanding the manner in which we hear is the beginning of understanding the different types. We pick up sounds through the outer ear, which isn’t only the part of the ear on the outside of our heads, but also the eardrum and the ear canal. The middle ear includes the eardrum as well, but also is comprised of the ossicles (three small bones that transform the vibrations of sound into information and transmit them to the inner ear). The inner ear is made up of a snail-shaped organ known as the cochlea, two semicircular canals that help us keep our balance, and a set of acoustic nerves that connect to the brain. This is an extremely elaborate mechanism, and problems can arise in any area of it that produce hearing loss. Four distinct classifications make up what we mean when we refer to “hearing loss.”

The first class is conductive hearing loss, which is due to an obstruction which hinders sounds from being transmitted through the outer or middle ear. Hearing aids can manage conductive hearing loss if medication or surgery cannot address it.

Sensorineural hearing loss generally refers to damage to the hair cells of the inner ear, to the cochlea, or sometimes to the acoustic nerves. This damage can in most cases not be effectively remedied by medication or surgery, but can be minimized through the use of hearing aids.

Suffering from both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss is called mixed hearing loss and is generally treated with a combination of medication, surgery, 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.

Each of these four main classifications contain several sub-categories, such as the degree of hearing loss, which can be mid-level, moderate, severe, or profound. Hearing loss is typically classified with additional sub-categories including whether the hearing loss occurs in one or both ears (unilateral vs. bilateral), whether the degree of hearing loss is the same in both ears (symmetrical vs. asymmetrical), or whether the hearing loss occurred before or after learning to speak (pre-lingual or post-lingual). Additional sub-categories of hearing loss includes whether it is progressive vs. sudden, whether the hearing loss is fluctuating vs. stable, and whether the hearing loss was present at birth (congenital) or developed later in life (acquired). If you suffer from any of these forms of hearing loss, our specialists can help to diagnose it and then to treat it most effectively.

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