Hearing Health Foundation advises all who believe they may have hearing loss, tinnitus, and/or balance concerns to make an appointment with a hearing health professional, such as an audiologist or an ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT).
A comprehensive evaluation will determine the types and severity of hearing loss present and assist hearing health professionals in making appropriate recommendations for hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other assistive devices.
There are five types of hearing loss:
- Conductive: Sound waves are not able to efficiently go through the outer ear canal to the eardrum and the small bones of the middle ear. There is typically a reduction in sound levels or the ability to hear faint sounds. This type of hearing loss can often be corrected medically or surgically.
- Sensorineural: Caused by damage to the hairs within the cochlea in the inner ear; sound not able to be converted into electrical signals for the auditory nerve. Treatments include amplification through hearing aids or cochlear implants.
- Combined (or mixed) Hearing Loss: Combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. The conductive component at times may be treated and reversed medically or surgically. However, the sensorineural component is often permanent. Hearing aids can be beneficial for persons with a mixed hearing loss. At the same time, caution must be exercised by the hearing care professional and patient if the conductive hearing loss is due to ear infections.
- Neural: Neural hearing loss is rare and is the result of damage or malformation to the auditory nerve that connects the cochlea to the brain. The hearing loss is usually profound and permanent. Traditional hearing treatment options like hearing aids or cochlear implants are not viable because the auditory nerve is not able to transmit information to the brain. In some cases, auditory brainstem implants have been utilized.
- Auditory Neuropathy: In this rare type of hearing loss, sound enters the inner ear normally but the transmission of signals from the inner ear to the brain is impaired. Those with auditory neuropathy, regardless of an underlying hearing loss, have trouble with speech-perception or understanding speech clearly.