Hearing Associates of Libertyville, IL

Shot of a senior man drinking coffee and looking thoughtfully out of a window wondering about hearing loss.

Have you ever seen a t-shirt advertised as “one size fits all” but when you went to put it on, you were disheartened to find that it didn’t fit at all? It’s kind of a bummer, right? There aren’t actually very many “one size fits all” with anything in the real world. That’s not only relevant with clothing, it’s also true with medical conditions such as hearing loss. There can be numerous reasons why it happens.

So what are the most common types of hearing loss and what causes them? Well, that’s exactly what we intend to explore.

Hearing loss comes in different forms

Because hearing is such an intricate mental and physical process, no two people’s hearing loss will be precisely the same. Perhaps when you’re in a noisy restaurant you can’t hear that well, but at work, you hear just fine. Or maybe you only have difficulty with high or low-pitched sounds. Your hearing loss can take a wide range of shapes.

How your hearing loss presents, in part, could be dictated by what causes your symptoms to begin with. Because your ear is a rather complex little organ, there are any number of things that can go wrong.

How does hearing work?

It’s useful to get an understanding of how hearing is supposed to work before we can figure out what degree of hearing loss requires a hearing aid. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Outer ear: This is the visible portion of the ear. It’s the initial sound receiver. The shape of your ear helps direct those sounds into your middle ear (where they are processed further).
  • Middle ear: The eardrum and a few tiny bones are what your middle ear is composed of (yes, you have bones in your ear, but they are admittedly very, very tiny).
  • Inner ear: Your stereocilia are found hear. Vibration is picked up by these little hairs which are then converted into electrical signals. Your cochlea helps here, too. This electrical energy is then carried to your brain.
  • Auditory nerve: This nerve directs these electrical signals to the brain.
  • Auditory system: All of the elements listed above, from your brain to your outer ear, are elements of your “auditory system”. The complete hearing process depends on all of these parts working in unison with each other. In other words, the system is interconnected, so any problem in one area will typically impact the performance of the whole system.

Varieties of hearing loss

There are multiple types of hearing loss because there are multiple parts of the ear. The underlying cause of your hearing loss will determine which kind of hearing loss you experience.

Here are some of the most common causes:

  • Conductive hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss occurs because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, frequently in the middle or outer ear. Normally, this blockage is due to fluid or inflammation (this usually happens, for example, when you have an ear infection). A growth in the ear can occasionally cause conductive hearing loss. Once the blockage is eliminated, hearing will normally go back to normal.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss: When your ears are damaged by loud noise, the tiny hair cells which pick up sound, called stereocilia, are destroyed. Usually, this is a chronic, progressive and permanent type of hearing loss. Usually, individuals are encouraged to use ear protection to avoid this type of hearing loss. If you’re dealing with sensorineural hearing loss, it can still be treated by devices such as hearing aids.
  • Mixed hearing loss: It sometimes happens that someone will experience both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss at the same time. This can often be difficult to treat because the hearing loss is coming from different places.
  • Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: ANSD is a fairly rare condition. It occurs when the cochlea does not properly transmit sounds from your ear to your brain. A device called a cochlear implant is usually used to manage this type of hearing loss.

Each form of hearing loss requires a different treatment method, but the desired results are often the same: improving your hearing ability.

Variations on hearing loss kinds

And there’s more. We can analyze and categorize these common types of hearing loss even more specifically. For example, hearing loss can also be classified as:

  • Symmetrical or asymmetrical: If your hearing loss is the same in both ears it’s symmetrical and if it’s not the same in both ears it’s asymmetrical.
  • Fluctuating or stable: If your hearing loss has a tendency to appear and disappear, it may be referred to as fluctuating. If your hearing loss stays at about the same levels, it’s called stable.
  • Acquired hearing loss: If you experience hearing loss as a result of outside causes, such as damage, it’s called “acquired”.
  • Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to speak, it’s known as pre-lingual. If your hearing loss developed after you learned to speak, it’s known as post-lingual. This can have ramifications for treatment and adaptation.
  • Progressive or sudden: You have “progressive” hearing loss if it slowly worsens over time. Hearing loss that erupts or shows up instantly is known as “sudden”.
  • Congenital hearing loss: Hearing loss you were born with.
  • Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either going through hearing loss in just one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
  • High frequency vs. low frequency: You might experience more trouble hearing high or low-frequency sounds. Your hearing loss can then be classified as one or the other.

If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. But your hearing loss will be more effectively treated when we’re able to use these categories.

Time to have a hearing exam

So how can you be sure which of these categories pertains to your hearing loss situation? Unfortunately, hearing loss isn’t really something you can accurately diagnose by yourself. It will be hard for you to determine, for instance, whether your cochlea is working correctly.

But you can get a hearing test to find out precisely what’s going on. It’s like when you have a check engine light on in your car and you take it to a skilled auto technician. We can hook you up to a wide range of machines, and help identify what type of hearing loss you have.

So the best way to understand what’s going on is to schedule an appointment with us today!

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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