When you're diagnosed with hearing loss, it can be helpful to understand the type of hearing loss you have, as both conductive and sensorineural, which are the two main types of hearing loss, have different causes and treatment options.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss can be temporary or permanent and occurs due to a problem with the middle ear. A few examples of middle ear problems that can impact your hearing include narrowing of the ear canal, impacted wax and a build-up of fluid that's been unable to drain through the Eustachian tube after a viral infection. Ear pain, odour and feeling like people are speaking too quietly are common symptoms of conductive hearing loss.
This type of hearing loss can be treated by flushing impacted wax out of your ears, clearing an infection with antibiotics and surgically removing tissue that's causing the ear canal to narrow, such as a tumour or scar tissue from a previous ear surgery. When ear canal narrowing cannot be reversed, you may find hearing aids that amplify sounds useful, particularly in environments with lots of background noise.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the cochlea in your inner ear. The cochlea contains cells that receive sounds from your ear canal and send them to your brain for processing. The calls can be damaged due to noise exposure and trauma. Damage can also occur if you have an underlying autoimmune condition, which can cause your immune system to attack your own body. Signs of sensorineural hearing loss include sounds seeming muffled, struggling to filter out background noise and being unable to hear certain frequencies.
Sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, but hearing aids or a cochlear implant can be used to improve your hearing. If only some of the cells in the cochlea are damaged, a hearing aid can be used to change the frequency of sounds as they enter your ear canal. This can improve the range of sounds you hear as different cochlear cells are capable of hearing different frequencies. So, if you can no longer hear high-frequency sounds, hearing aids can be used to convert these sounds to a lower frequency and send them to your cochlea to be processed by healthy cells. A cochlear implant can be used to restore lost hearing when there's severe damage to your cochlea. The implant is attached to your temporal bone and doesn't require any part of your ear to be functioning in order to transport sound to your brain, as it receives sound from an external microphone.
If you have hearing loss and would like to understand the cause and type more fully, or if you're currently experiencing a decline in your hearing capability, schedule an appointment with your audiologist.