Shot of a senior man drinking coffee and looking thoughtfully out of a window wondering about hearing loss.

Have you ever seen a t-shirt advertised as “one size fits all” but when you went to put it on, you were disheartened to find that it didn’t fit at all? That’s really aggravating. The truth is that there’s almost nothing in the world that is truly a “one size fits all”. That’s true with t-shirts and it’s also relevant with medical conditions, like hearing loss. There can be many reasons why it happens.

So what causes hearing loss? And what is the most common type of hearing loss? Let’s find out!

Hearing loss comes in different forms

Everyone’s hearing loss scenario will be as unique as they are. Maybe when you’re in a crowded restaurant you can’t hear that well, but when you’re at work, you hear fine. Or perhaps you only have difficulty with high or low-pitched sounds. Your hearing loss can take a wide variety of forms.

How your hearing loss presents, in part, might be determined by what’s causing your symptoms in the first place. Because your ear is a rather complex little organ, there are lots of things that can go wrong.

How your hearing works

It’s helpful to get an understanding of how hearing is supposed to work before we can figure out what level of hearing loss requires a hearing aid. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Outer ear: This is the part of the ear that’s visible. It’s the initial sound receiver. The shape of your ear helps direct those sounds into your middle ear (where they are further processed).
  • Middle ear: The eardrum and several tiny bones are what your middle ear is composed of (Yes, there are some tiny little bones in there).
  • Inner ear: Your stereocilia are found hear. These delicate hairs pick up on vibrations and begin translating those vibrations into electrical energy. Your cochlea helps here, also. These electrical signals are then sent to your brain.
  • Auditory nerve: This nerve is inside of your ear, and it’s responsible for channeling and directing this electrical energy to your brain.
  • Auditory system: All of the elements listed above, from your brain to your outer ear, are components of your “auditory system”. The complete hearing process depends on all of these elements working in concert with each other. In other words, the system is interconnected, so any problem in one area will usually affect the performance of the whole system.

Hearing loss types

Because there are multiple parts of your auditory system, there are (as a result) multiple forms of hearing loss. Which type you experience will depend on the underlying cause.

The prevalent types of hearing loss include:

  • Conductive hearing loss: This form of hearing loss occurs because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, often in the outer or middle ear. Normally, fluid or inflammation is the reason for this blockage (when you have an ear infection, for example, this typically happens). In some cases, conductive hearing loss can be caused by a growth in the ear canal. Typically, with conductive hearing loss, your hearing will return to normal as soon as the obstruction has been removed.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss: When the fragile hairs that detect sound, called stereocilia, are damaged by loud sound they are normally destroyed. This form of hearing loss is usually chronic, progressive, and permanent. Typically, individuals are encouraged to use hearing protection to avoid this type of hearing loss. If you’re dealing with sensorineural hearing loss, it can still be managed by devices such as hearing aids.
  • Mixed hearing loss: It’s also possible to have a combination of sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. This can often be hard to treat because the hearing loss is coming from different places.
  • Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: It’s fairly rare for someone to develop ANSD. When sound isn’t properly transmitted from your ear to your brain, this type of hearing loss happens. A device known as a cochlear implant is normally used to manage this kind of hearing loss.

Each form of hearing loss calls for a different treatment method, but the desired results are usually the same: to improve or maintain your ability to hear.

Variations on hearing loss types

And that isn’t all! Any of these common types of hearing loss can be further categorized (and more specifically). For instance, hearing loss can also be classified as:

  • Acquired hearing loss: If you experience hearing loss as a result of external forces, like damage, it’s known as “acquired”.
  • Fluctuating or stable: If your hearing loss has a tendency to come and go, it may be referred to as fluctuating. If your hearing loss remains at around the same levels, it’s called stable.
  • Progressive or sudden: Hearing loss that slowly worsens over time is called “progressive”. Hearing loss that erupts or presents instantly is known as “sudden”.
  • Symmetrical or asymmetrical: If your hearing loss is the same in both ears it’s symmetrical and if it isn’t the same in both ears it’s asymmetrical.
  • High frequency vs. low frequency: You may experience more trouble hearing high or low-frequency sounds. Your hearing loss can then be classified as one or the other.
  • Congenital hearing loss: If you’re born with hearing loss it’s known as “congenital”.
  • Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either experiencing hearing loss in just one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
  • Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to talk, it’s called pre-lingual. Hearing loss is post-lingual when it develops after you learned to talk. This will affect the way hearing loss is treated.

If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. The point is that each categorization helps us more precisely and effectively address your symptoms.

A hearing test is in order

So how can you tell which of these classifications pertains to your hearing loss scenario? Unfortunately, hearing loss isn’t really something you can accurately diagnose by yourself. It will be hard for you to know, for example, whether your cochlea is working correctly.

But you can get a hearing exam to determine precisely what’s going on. Your loss of hearing is kind of like a “check engine” light. We can help you determine what type of hearing loss you’re dealing with by hooking you up to a wide variety of modern technology.

So give us a call today and make an appointment to find out what’s going on.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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