Hearing loss occurs in varying degrees, such as mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe or profound.   A diagnostic evaluation of hearing tests can determine the level of loss you experience compared with others with normal hearing.

Conductive Hearing Loss

By definition, conductive losses are defined as problems affecting the outer or middle ear.  Conductive hearing loss accounts for only 5-10% of our nation’s hearing losses.  Most of these types of losses are temporary and can be addressed with care and/or surgery. 

Conductive losses affect your ability to “conduct” sound to the inner ear (which is on the other side of the ear drum).  Children with ear infections experience ‘conductive hearing losses.  Adults with ear wax, congenital malformations, or otosclerosis (a.k.a. calcium growths) have conductive losses.

Many times conductive hearing losses may be temporary, depending on the source of the problem. Medical management can correct some cases of conductive hearing loss, while amplification (hearing aids) is a recommended treatment option long-term.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

SNHL results from damage to the inner ear.  Nerve Hearing Losses or Sensorineural Losses is the name used to describe damage to the inner ear.  Sensorineural hearing loss accounts for 90-95% of our nation’s hearing losses.  Most of these types of losses are permanent, but can be addressed with hearing aids.

Loud noises from tractors, chain saws, lawn mowers, circular saws, power drill, compressors, Bluetooth music devices, and ear buds erode our ability to understand speech clearly.  Sensorineural losses occur when the sensory receptors in the cochlea or auditory nerve of the brain do not function properly.  Most of this sensorineural loss occurs as a result of the damage to the hair cells in the cochlea which result in a hearing loss.  Individuals find it difficult to understand speech clearly, hear amidst background noise, and hear muffled sounds.

Sometimes the hair cells are abnormal at birth and other times they get damaged from aging, loud noise exposure, drugs, trauma, or infection.  Sensorineural hearing losses are typically permanent and some remain consistent over time while types of losses can worsen. As a result, routine hearing tests are needed to monitor the hearing loss. Hearing aids have proven to be an effective treatment solution for sensorineural hearing losses.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of a sensorineural hearing loss and a conductive hearing loss. It is, very literally, a mix of sensorineural and conductive hearing losses. This means there is a problem in the inner ear as well as in the outer or middle ear. The conductive hearing loss may be temporary or permanent, depending on the source of the problem.

Mixed hearing loss can sometimes be treated with medical management and hearing aids are a common treatment recommendation.