Hearing loss affects approximately 15% of adults aged 18 and older, although not in the same way. While there are varying degrees of hearing loss which impact your level of impairment, there are also different typesof hearing loss. Only a visit to your local ear nose and throat doctor (ENT) will be able to explain which one you or your loved one is suffering from. Let’s take a look.
- Conductive Hearing Loss: There are three main parts to your ear: the inner, the outer, and the middle ear. Conductive hearing loss occurs when sounds cannot get through the outer and middle ear, and are generally caused by physical problems. This could mean that your eustachian tube did not form correctly, you have a hole in your eardrum, or you’re suffering from some type of blockage (such as earwax). Medicine or surgery can often fix these diagnoses.
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss: Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) occurs when your sensitive inner ear becomes damaged. In addition to sensory nerve problems (which may be genetic), various illnesses, blows to the head, and even certain medications can trigger SNHL. Unfortunately, this is the most common type of permanent hearing loss; though medicine or surgery cannot fix SNHL most of the time, hearing aids may be an option.
- Mixed Hearing Loss: If you experience conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss at the same time, you’re facing mixed hearing loss. This means that there may be damage in the outer or middle ear, in the inner ear or nerve pathway to the brain, or both. As a result, anything that can cause SNHL or conductive hearing loss can lead to a mixed diagnosis. Treatment options depend on your unique case, and are at the discretion of your ear nose and throat doctor.
People make appointments with ear nose and throat doctors for a variety of reasons. Many have to do with one-off problems, such as swimmer’s ear (a painful outer eardrum infection that generally clears up within seven to 10 days). However, hearing loss requires routine visits to ensure your condition isn’t worsening; if you think you might be experiencing one of the types listed above, call an ear nose and doctor to get it checked out.