What is hearing loss?
No two cases of hearing loss are the same. Most often people with hearing loss are unable to distinguish soft tones and high-pitched sounds, and have difficulties hearing whispers, children’s voices, or birdsong. Others can’t hear low tones, like deep voices. Still others experience difficulties hearing high and low sounds.
Hearing problems can occur in all parts of the ear.
Conductive hearing loss involving the outer or middle ear can sometimes be treated with medication or surgery. However, a good 80 percent of all hearing loss is caused by dysfunctions of, or damage to, the inner ear, also known as sensorineural hearing loss. Some people experience both, while still others are only able to hear out of one ear. Fortunately, thanks to modern advances in technology, today’s hearing aids can compensate for most inner ear-related difficulties and other forms of hearing loss.
Types of Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss.
Unlike conductive hearing loss, sensorineural conditions only affect the inner ear or neural pathways. It is the most common type of hearing loss. Sound is transmitted through the outer and middle ears normally but the inner ear is less efficient in transmitting to the brain for processing, usually due to damage to the auditory nerve, the cochlea, and/or hair cells (the fine nerve endings inside the cochlea).
Sensorineural hearing loss results in reduction of the following:
- Overall volume
- Ability to understand speech clearly
- Sensitivity to higher frequencies, including soft high-pitched consonants such as s, f, th, and sh
It also affects the ability to understand high-pitched voices and sounds such as birds singing. Hearing aids are usually a preferred solution for this type of hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss usually results from diseases or disorders that interrupt the sound transmission from the outer and/or middle ear into the inner ear. In cases where the conductive hearing loss is temporary, it is often possible to correct the condition with surgery, medication, or both. In other situations, hearing aids can significantly improve hearing.
Common causes of conductive hearing loss include the following:
- Birth defects or deformities
- Injury to the outer ear
- Ear infections
- Head trauma
- Blockage of the ear canal
- Perforation or stiffening of the ear drum or middle ear bones
With conductive hearing loss, the inner ear works properly but something is keeping sound from passing through the outer/middle ear to the inner ear.
Mixed hearing loss.
Some people have a mix of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Treatment options will likely include both medical intervention and hearing aids.
Single-sided hearing loss.
You might be able to hear well out of one ear and not at all out of the other. Single-sided deafness—also known as unilateral hearing loss—can make it hard to understand speech in loud environments or localize sound. You might miss important alerts or conversation coming from the side without hearing, and find understanding speech a challenge.
Don’t ignore hearing loss.
Hearing loss interferes with your life in many ways you might not realize. Be proactive with your hearing health by learning more about it. Once you understand how much it can disrupt your enjoyment of life we hope you’ll be ready to do something about it.
Whatever your challenges, the first step is an accurate diagnosis of your form of hearing loss, along with an assessment of how severe it is and what can be done to treat it.Learn More
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Signia Hearing Test was created by our audiology experts to help you determine whether you have hearing impairment. This application has been scientifically developed and carefully tested to ensure the most precise results possible. In addition, the test is completely independent of language, so you can use it reliably no matter what language you’re most comfortable with.