According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, nearly 15% of adults report some form of hearing loss. Some people are born with hearing loss, often as a result of genetics; however, others may develop hearing loss over time. Below are some of the most common types of hearing loss, possible causes, and potential treatment options.
Conductive hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves cannot pass through the outer ear, eardrum, or middle ear. This condition can develop for several reasons. A perforated eardrum or foreign object in the external auditory canal may lead to temporary loss, while more extensive damage to the external and middle ear may lead to more permanent hearing loss. Like any form of hearing loss, the severity of conductive hearing loss varies from person to person. Unlike other hearing conditions, however, conductive hearing loss can occasionally be treated with surgery or pharmaceuticals. These treatments can partially or even fully restore hearing ability, but in some cases, hearing aids may be a more viable option.
Sensorineural hearing loss
The most common type of hearing loss is sensorineural hearing loss. Often abbreviated as SNHL, this condition is a result of damage to the inner ear, cochlea, or vestibulocochlear nerve. Sensorineural hearing loss can be inherited or may develop as a result of a congenital infection, such as rubella or meningitis. It can also be caused by repeat exposure to loud noises. This form of hearing loss is not usually treatable with medicine or surgery, so it’s extremely important to take all possible precautions. Employees that work in manufacturing facilities, for instance, are particularly susceptible to this condition, as they are constantly surrounded by dangerous noise levels. To help prevent sensorineural hearing loss, many manufacturing facilities install industrial acoustic panels, which use acoustic absorption, to dampen these dangerously loud noises. These noise control systems use porous materials to trap sound waves and reduce the perception of sound once it reaches employees’ ears. While medicine and surgery are typically not options to treat this form of hearing loss, hearing aids or cochlear implants may help manage the effects of SNHL.
Mixed hearing loss
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss and is often caused by any of the factors that lead to the conditions listed above. For instance, if an individual is diagnosed with hearing loss as a result of working around loud noises and has fluid in their ear, they may be diagnosed with mixed hearing loss. This means the condition may be more profound than if you’re diagnosed with only one form of hearing loss. However, it’s important to remember that each case of hearing loss is unique. Some people diagnosed with hearing loss may find soft noises difficult to hear but they can hear loud sounds quite clearly, while others may not be able to hear noises at any volume. Each diagnosis is different, so it’s important to discuss treatment and management options with your doctor to find the option that’s best for you.