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There are several different varieties of hearing loss, determined by which part of the auditory pathway has been impaired. In this short article we present a summary of 5 types – conductive, sensorineural, mixed, central and functional. The initial step in designing a therapy plan is to accurately establish the kind of hearing loss.
This type of hearing loss is responsible for over 90 percent of the instances in which a hearing aid is used. Sensorineural hearing loss is due to damage in the interior of the ear or damage to the acoustic nerve, which prevents sound signals from being transmitted to the brain. Also known as retrocochlear hearing loss or nerve deafness, the damage is more often than not irreversible, although improvements in technology have made it possible for some formerly untreatable cases to be improved.
The most common reasons behind sensorineural hearing loss are aging, extended exposure to noise, issues with blood flow to the interior of the ear, fluid disturbance in the inner ear, drugs that cause injury to the ear, some diseases, heredity and issues with the auditory nerve.
Hearing aids are satisfactory for the majority of people who have this kind of hearing loss, but in more serious cases, a cochlear implant can help bring back hearing to those individuals for whom a standard hearing aid is not enough.
Conductive hearing loss
When sound waves are not sufficiently conducted to the inner ear through the structures of the outer and middle ear, conductive hearing loss arises. This is very common and can be caused by a buildup of ear wax, an accumulation of fluid in the eustacian tube, which prevents the eardrum from moving properly, a middle ear infection, a perforated eardrum, disease of the tiny bones of the middle ear and other blockages in the ear canal.
The majority of instances of conductive hearing loss are reversible, assuming there is no irreversible damage to the structures of the middle ear, and with treatment the problem usually clears up in a short amount of time. For some patients surgery can assist in correcting the issue or a hearing aid may be recommended.
Mixed hearing loss
As the term suggests, mixed hearing loss is a combination of different types of hearing loss – conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Though there are a few other kinds of hearing loss, the combination of these two is most frequent.
Central hearing loss
Central hearing loss arises in situations where a problem in the CNS (central nervous system) keeps sound signals from being processed and interpreted by the brain. Affected individuals can ostensibly hear perfectly well, but can’t understand or decipher what is being said. Numerous cases involve a problem with the person’s capacity to effectively filter competing sounds. For instance, most of us can hold a conversation with traffic noise in the background, but people with central hearing loss have a really hard time with this.
Functional hearing loss
An infrequent situation, functional hearing loss is not physical. This condition is due to psychological or emotional problem in which the person’s physical hearing is found to be normal, however they are not able to hear.