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Understanding Hearing Loss – Which Type Might You Have?

The human ear is an amazing mechanism, a perfectly-designed system of detectors and transmitters that is always on call.


The outer ear collects sound waves, and gathers data about their source. The middle ear changes the waves to mechanical vibrations. The inner ear converts them to nerve impulses, and sends them to the brain. Parts of the ear also control our sense of balance, too.


The components involved in these processes are actually quite delicate. Little wonder that, as years pass, some breakdown hearing loss results. Aging is a common cause; others lose hearing from extended exposure to loud noise, injury to the ear or head, hereditary conditions or infections.


Hearing loss falls into two categories: sensorineural and conductive. Sometimes, if damage is extensive throughout an ear, a person might be afflicted with both.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Damage to the inner ear, specifically the cochlea or nerve pathways, causes sensorineural hearing loss. It’s far and away the most common type. The ailment reduces the ability to hear faint sounds, and can muffle speech that is still loud enough to hear. Noisy environments can pose significant challenges to understanding speech.


Causes of sensorineural hearing loss are typically aging, illness, genetic predisposition, certain medications, and head trauma.

Conductive Hearing Loss

A reduction in overall sound level is typical of conductive hearing loss. The movement of sound through the outer ear canal to the eardrum and tiny bones (ossicles) of the middle ear is compromised. This condition is often corrected medically or surgically.


Causes of conductive hearing loss include fluid in the ear, infections, impacted earwax, allergies, tumors, a perforated eardrum, or a foreign body in the ear. Sometimes a defect in the ear itself is involved.


Understanding the type of hearing loss you suffer from is important in treating it. Whatever the condition, a solution is possible to help you live a fuller, more auditory life.