Types of Hearing Loss
In general, there are three types of hearing loss based on what part of your ear is involved. The three main types are: sensorineural, conductive and mixed. Let's look at each one more closely.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear. It is the most common type of permanent loss of hearing. In most cases, sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, although in a minority of situations there is a treatable cause. Noise, medications, head trauma, hereditary factors, autoimmune diseases and aging can all contribute to sensorineural hearing loss.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss is caused by conditions in the outer ear, ear canal or middle ear that obstruct the flow of sound to the inner ear. Causes of conductive hearing loss include wax obstructing the canal, build-up of fluid in the middle ear, ear infection, a torn eardrum, Swimmer's ear, tumors, foreign bodies and genetic conditions that affect the structure of the outer ear, ear canal and/or middle ear. In some cases, conductive hearing loss can be improved by correcting the underlying problem.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss suggests there's a combination of damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve and an obstruction or other problem in the outer or middle ear. In this situation, corrective causes, such as obstruction in the ear canal, are treated and any remaining hearing problem may be able to be treated, for example, with amplification such as a hearing aid or cochlear implant.
The Bottom Line
If you're having problems hearing, see your family doctor or an audiologist for a hearing test. If hearing loss is found, they will determine which type of loss you have and what treatment options are available.