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Types of hearing loss

There are 3 overall types of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive, and mixed hearing loss.
In treating hearing loss, it is important to understand the differences in order to determine the best treatment option.

What are the main types of hearing loss?

The main types of hearing loss are differentiated based on which part of the ear is damaged:

  • Sensorineural hearing loss caused by damage to the inner ear or hearing nerve. This prevents the damaged area from properly transmitting sound to the brain.
  • Conductive hearing loss is caused by damage in the external and/or middle ear and, in most cases, it is medically treatable.
  • Mixed hearing loss - In some cases, both aspects of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss are present; this is referred to as mixed hearing loss.

Degree of hearing loss

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Quiz yourself: Should I get my hearing checked?

Answer a few questions to see if you could benefit from a hearing assessment.*

Question 1 – Around the table
Do you have trouble following conversations when there are 4 or more people present?
Have you received advice from your family or friends to get your hearing tested?
Do you ever struggle to understand what others are saying because you cannot hear properly?
Do you find yourself turning up the TV or radio even when the volume is loud enough for others?

Your Result:

A hearing assessment is relevant for you

Your answers indicate that you experience symptoms of hearing loss. We strongly recommend booking a hearing assessment in one of our hearing centers.

The result is an indication. An in-person hearing assessment can determine if you have a hearing loss.



Book your complimentary hearing assessment:

Your Result:

A hearing assessment seems relevant for you

Your answers indicate that you experience some symptoms of hearing loss. We recommend booking a hearing assessment in one of our clinics.

The result is an indication. An in-person hearing assessment can determine if you have a hearing loss.



Book your complimentary hearing assessment:

Your Result:

It cannot be determined here if a hearing assessment is relevant for you

Your answers do not indicate that you experience symptoms of hearing loss. However, if you experience trouble hearing, we recommend booking a hearing assessment in one of our hearing centers.

The result is an indication. An in-person hearing assessment can determine if you have a hearing loss.




Book your complimentary hearing assessment:

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Sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss (or sensorineural deafness) is the most common type of hearing loss. When experiencing sensorineural hearing loss, sounds may be unclear or difficult to hear. Voices in conversation may be distorted, and it may seem like others are mumbling.

Causes of sensorineural hearing loss

Treating sensorineural hearing loss
This type of hearing loss is often treated with hearing aids.

Sensorineural hearing loss

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Conductive hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss is usually a result of a disruption to the sound's path as it travels from the outer / middle ear to the inner ear.

Causes of conductive hearing loss
This type of hearing loss can also be caused by an obstruction in the ear canal, such as earwax or liquid preventing sound from reaching the ear drum.

Treating conductive hearing loss
Treatment for conductive hearing loss includes: earwax removal, medical treatments, and surgical treatments.

Conductive hearing loss

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Watch Carl's journey to better hearing

"At one point I felt more and more excluded when I participated in social events. It was actually kind of a lonely feeling. I don’t want to compromise in my social life.
When I felt I had to compromise, I took action."


Find nearest center 

Audio

Visual

Music

 

I want to share my life with others.

Nothing is more important than feeling connected and communicating with the world and people around me.

Carl is sitting on the sofa with his partner

Music

 

You know, feeling closeness, intimacy - support from my partner. And having good discussions with my family and friends.

Carl is laughing with his partner.

Carl and his partner are laughing and talking at a dinner party

Music

 

But also, the more low-key daily experiences

A good cup of coffee

A good movie

There are definitely challenges in the daily routines.

Carl is sitting on the sofa with his partner and turns up the volume on the TV.

Music

 

At one point I felt more and more excluded when I participated in social events.

It was actually kind of a lonely feeling.

I do not want to compromise in my social life.

Carl is sitting at the dinner party. However, he is not interacting in the discussion with others.

Music

 

When I felt I had to compromise, I took action.

Carl talks with an audiologist in a clinic.

Carl inserts his hearing aids.

Music

 

Life has so much to offer me and I really want to be a part of it all.

I really want to play an active part in my life

Carl is sitting on the sofa and is laughing and talking with his partner.

Carl is sitting at the dinner party and interacting with the others

Music

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Other types of hearing loss

There are other ways to describe hearing loss types. For example:

- High or low-frequency: Indicates whether you are unable to hear high or low-pitched sounds (i.e. high frequency hearing loss means you cannot hear high-pitched sounds)
High frequency hearing loss 
Low frequency hearing loss 

- Unilateral or bilateral: Indicates whether one (unilateral) or both (bilateral) ears are affected by hearing loss
Bilateral hearing loss
Unilateral hearing loss

- Progressive or sudden hearing loss: Indicates whether the hearing loss happens quickly or gradually over time

- Acquired or congenital: Indicates whether your hearing was present at birth or acquired at a later stage in life

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Image shows man suffering from ringing in the ears

Tinnitus: ringing in the ears

Tinnitus is a ringing, buzzing, whistling, roaring, hissing sound in the ear that only you can hear. Tinnitus affects 15-20% of people, and it is very often one of the first signs of hearing loss.¹²

The most common cause is exposure to excessive noise, which damages the tiny hair cells in the inner ear. The sound of tinnitus is the result of your brain trying to compensate for the loss of hair cells. The brain misinterprets the reduced signals from the ear, resulting in a perception of sound, or tinnitus.

Online Tinnitus Test Tinnitus
Leslie Soiles, Chief Audiologist
Dr. Leslie Soiles

Au.D., Doctor of Audiology
Lic. #364, Chief Audiologist, HearingLife

Dr. Leslie Soiles founded HearingLife's Shrewsbury's office (formerly New England Hearing Instruments) in 1996. As a Doctor of Audiology, she has worked with Ear, Nose and Throat Physicians for the first 20 years of her career.

Dr. Soiles serves as Chief Audiologist for HearingLife. Click here to read her complete bio and learn more about her education and background.

Sources

1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tinnitus/symptoms-causes/syc-20350156
2. David M Baguley, Mechanisms of tinnitus, British Medical Bulletin, Volume 63, Issue 1, October 2002, Pages 195–212, https://doi.org/10.1093/bmb/63.1.195