In the same way that there are numerous causes of hearing loss, there are several forms of hearing loss; understanding the way that we hear is the first step in understanding the various types. Sound enters through the outer ear, which is the part of the ear on the exterior of the head, but also encompasses the eardrum and the ear canal. The eardrum is also viewed as part of the middle ear, an area which also includes the 3 tiny bones called ossicles that take the vibrations of sound and transmit them to the inner ear. Lastly, the inner ear contains the cochlea (a tiny, snail-shaped organ), two canals with a semicircular shape which are important to our sense of balance, and the acoustic nerves, which convey the signals to our brains. All these parts are extremely complicated and delicate, and a problem in any section can lead to hearing loss. Hearing loss is usually categorized into four primary classifications.
Something interfering with the transmission of sound through the outer or middle ear is termed conductive hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss is frequently treatable using medication or with surgery, and if neither succeeds, it is managed with hearing aids.
Sensorineural hearing loss generally refers to damage to the hair cells of the inner ear, to the cochlea, or sometimes to the acoustic nerves. This damage can in most cases not be effectively remedied by medication or surgery, but can be minimized through the use of hearing aids.
Mixed hearing loss involves both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss, and can occasionally (but not always) be treated with a combination of surgery, medication, and/or hearing aids.
Central hearing loss occurs when sound enters the ear normally, but because of damage either to the inner ear (especially to the cochlea) or to the auditory nerves, it cannot be organized in a way that the brain can understand.
Spanning each of these four main classifications are sub-categories of degree, meaning that the hearing loss may be mid-level, moderate, severe, or profound. Additional sub-categories include whether the hearing loss occurs in one ear or both ears (unilateral vs. bilateral), whether it occurs at the same degree in both ears (symmetrical vs. asymmetrical), and whether the hearing loss happened before or after the person learned to speak (pre-lingual vs post-lingual). Other sub-categories of hearing loss include progressive or sudden (occurring gradually or all at once), fluctuating or stable (getting better at times, or staying the same), and congenital or acquired (present at birth or developing later in life). The most important thing to bear in mind, however, is that whatever type of hearing loss you may have incurred, our specialists can help you to diagnose and treat it properly.