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Types of hearing loss and how they can be managed.



Like any medical condition, there are different types of hearing loss that one could experience. It is important to understand the difference between each type of hearing loss as treatment/management approaches may also differ. There are 3 main types of hearing loss you could be experiencing:

  1. Conductive Hearing Loss

  2. Sensorineural hearing loss

  3. Mixed Hearing Loss


Conductive hearing loss occurs when there is a blockage in the middle ear. Sensorineural hearing loss refers to nerve damage in the inner ear. Mixed hearing loss is the combination of both.

1. Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss can occur for a variety of different reasons. This generally occurs when there is possibly:

  1. A persisting/recurrent ear infection,

  2. A perforation (or hole in the eardrum).

2. Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss can also be caused by a number of reasons. The most common cause is the process of ageing, called Presbycusis. The ear simply does not work as it used to. The hair cells in the inner ear begin to deteriorate and fail to respond to sound as they once did. Coupled with nerve damage, this could lead to auditory deprivation if left untreated.


A major sign that you may be experiencing this type of hearing loss is that you may find you are struggling to get clarity/understanding of the sounds you are hearing around you.

Other symptoms include:

  • It seems as if everyone is mumbling rather than talking clearly.

  • You are not able to hear the TV as clearly as you used to.

  • Women and children’s voices are not as easy to hear anymore.

The other big cause for sensorineural hearing loss is the exposure to continuous loud noise. This could be because you work in a factory or listen to an excessive amount of loud music. Over time the inner ear hair cells fail to repair themselves causing the same symptoms as previously mentioned.


Other less common causes of sensorineural hearing loss, but equally as important to know about are:

  • Certain viruses (Meningitis, Labyrinthitis, Neuritis, Cochleitis)

  • Ototoxic medication

  • Family history/genetics

  • Congenital

  • Diabetes Mellitus

  • Tumour

  • Meniere’s Disease

  • Head Trauma

3. Mixed Hearing Loss

A mixed hearing loss will occur when you experience a combination of middle ear (conductive) and inner ear (sensorineural) hearing loss.

How Hearing Loss can be Managed

Conductive hearing loss is usually temporary and/or reversible. If it is caused by blockage in the outer/middle ear, the ear can be cleaned/the obstruction can be removed, and the hearing should return back to normal. An infection in the middle ear can be treated with antibiotics if it is diagnosed in time. A perforation in the eardrum will heal over time or can be treated by microscopic surgery if it is longstanding. All treatment involves collaboration between an Audiologist and ENT (Ear-Nose-Throat Specialist).


Sensorineural hearing loss is permanent/irreversible. It is mostly managed with the help of hearing aids. Digital hearing aids are available which can be adjusted to your personal hearing needs and lifestyle. The main goal of hearing aids is to boost your speech understanding and improve your quality of life.


Sources:

Types of Hearing Loss - https://hearnet.org.au/hearing-loss/types-of-hearing-loss

Treatment of Conductive Hearing Loss - Dr. Girish Rai- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkaTEA0LGy8

Treatment of Sensorineural Hearing Loss - Dr. Girish Rai - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Spk5DJHmYbI

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