Did you know one in six Australians have some form of hearing loss? Economists predict that this will rise to one in four by 2050. While this increase is largely linked to an aging population, not all hearing loss is caused by age. Hearing loss affects Australians of all ages and stages, and can be acquired through a range of different causes. Learn more about the different types of hearing loss, how they are caused, and how they are treated.
Each person’s hearing loss is completely unique to them – like a fingerprint. However, hearing loss does fall into three different categories.
Sensorineural hearing loss
This is the most common type of hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss is when the inner ear nerves are damaged. When these nerves and the delicate hair cells in the cochlea are damaged, they can’t transmit signals to the brain effectively. This leads to unclear or muffled speech and sound.
The causes of sensorineural hearing loss include the natural aging process (presbycusis), exposure to loud noise, head trauma, illness or infection, certain medications, birth defects, and genetic or hereditary hearing loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, and cannot be reversed through medication or surgery. Hearing aids are a very effective treatment for this type of hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss
This type of hearing loss is most commonly attributed to something blocking the middle or outer ear. This means that sound can’t properly ‘conduct’ or travel to the inner ear and onwards to the brain. Someone suffering conductive hearing loss may hear sounds more quietly than usual.
Common causes of conductive hearing loss include an ear infection, fluid or wax build-up, allergic reaction, benign tumor, blocked Eustachian tubes, perforated eardrum, a foreign body in the ear canal or a defect in the ear anatomy.
Depending on the cause, conductive hearing loss can be treated through medication, surgery or by using hearing aids. Often, this type of hearing loss is temporary, and treatment will reverse the symptoms, like in the case of an ear infection.
Mixed hearing loss
This is a combination of both types of hearing loss discussed above. This means there is damage or issues in the inner ear as well as either the outer or middle ear. Factors that cause the above two types of hearing loss can combine to cause a mixed hearing loss.
Mixed hearing loss can be treated through a combination of medicine, surgical means and hearing aid technology.
Only a hearing health professional can accurately diagnose which specific type or types of hearing loss you are experiencing. If you suspect you might have hearing loss, make an appointment for your local audiology clinic. Once they can pinpoint the issue, it’s onwards and upwards on your journey to better hearing health.