Hearing problems are grouped in a number of ways. The specific part of the auditory pathway affected is what determines the categorization. The hearing loss may be sensorineural, conductive, central, mixed or functional. The initial step in developing a treatment plan is to properly identify the kind of hearing loss.
- Conductive hearing loss – When sound waves aren’t properly conducted to the inner ear through the structures of the outer and middle ear, conductive hearing loss occurs. Conductive hearing loss is rather common and can be due to a buildup of ear wax, an accumulation of moisture in the eustacian tube, which prevents the eardrum from moving properly, a middle ear infection, a perforated eardrum, disease of the bones of the middle ear and other blockages in the ear canal.The majority of cases of this type of hearing loss are reversible, presuming there isn’t any permanent damage to the parts of the middle ear, and with proper treatment the trouble usually resolves in a short amount of time. In some cases surgery can assist in correcting the condition or a hearing aid may be fitted.
- Sensorineural hearing loss – Sensorineural hearing loss accounts for more than 90% of the situations in which a hearing aid is used. Sensorineural hearing loss is due to damage in the inner ear or to the acoustic nerve, which prevents sound signals from being transmitted to the brain. Also referred to as nerve deafness or retrocochlear hearing loss, the damage is more often than not permanent, although advances in modern technology have enabled some previously untreatable cases to be improved. The most frequent causes of sensorineural hearing loss are the aging process, prolonged exposure to noise, complications with blood flow to the inner ear, fluid disturbance in the inner ear, medications that cause injury to the ear, a handful of diseases, genetics and issues with the auditory nerve. Hearing aidsHearing aids are sufficient for the majority of people who have this type of hearing loss, but in more serious cases, a cochlear implant can help bring back hearing to those for whom a conventional hearing aid is not enough.
- Mixed hearing loss – As the term suggests, mixed hearing loss is a mixture of different types of hearing loss – conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Although there are a couple of other types of hearing loss, the combination of these 2 is most frequent.
- Central hearing loss – This condition arises in situations where a problem in the CNS (central nervous system) keeps sound signals from being processed by the brain. The person affected can ostensibly hear perfectly well, but cannot decode or interpret what is being said. Many cases involve a problem with the person’s ability to adequately filter rival sounds. For example, the majority of us can hold a conversation with traffic noise in the background, but individuals with central hearing loss have a difficult time doing so.
- Functional hearing loss – A rare situation, functional hearing loss does not have a psysiological explanation. This condition is caused by an emotional or psychological condition in which the person’s physical hearing is normal, however they are not able to hear.