Types of Hearing Loss
If you’re seeking help for hearing problems, it’s important to first understand the type of hearing loss that you have.
Until you are certain of the type of hearing loss you have, it’s impossible to determine the appropriate treatment option.
If you’re not sure what type of hearing loss you have, get a hearing test and your hearing care provider will be able to tell you.
In this post we’ll focus on the most common types of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive, and mixed hearing loss.
The 3 Most Common Types of Hearing Loss
The graphic below illustrates the prevalence of certain types of hearing loss among the entire population of individuals with hearing loss.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is the type of hearing loss most people are familiar with- that is, hearing loss as a result of aging, or a lifetime of exposure to loud noise (among other causes).
As the most common type of hearing loss, by a long shot, sensorineural hearing loss is the type of hearing loss that over 90% of people with hearing loss have.
Common symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss include:
- Difficulty understanding people, especially in background noise
- Spending less time in social activities from fatigue
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
The primary treatment option for sensorineural hearing loss is hearing aids.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss occurs when something blocks the pathway of sound from the air surrounding you to your inner ear.
This sound pathway can be blocked by something as simple as ear wax, or could be the result of a medical problem, such as ear infections or otosclerosis.
Much less common than sensorineural hearing loss, it is estimated that conductive hearing loss affects less than 10% of the entire population of individuals with hearing loss.
Common symptoms of conductive hearing loss
- Things sound muffled
- A feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear
- Pain in the ear
To treat conductive hearing loss, the underlying medical problem which is preventing sound from reaching your inner ear needs to be addressed, often through medications or surgery.
Mixed Hearing Loss
As the name implies, mixed hearing loss is when there is both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss at the same time.
For example, if an individual had an existing sensorineural hearing loss, and then got an ear infection, the ear infection would add a conductive component to the hearing loss.
Until the ear infection is healed- there would be a mixed hearing loss.
Mixed hearing loss is the most rare type of hearing loss and affects a very small percentage of individuals.
Common symptoms of mixed hearing loss
- Conversations don’t sound clear to you
- You have pain or fullness in your ears
To treat mixed hearing loss, doctors first try to treat the underlying cause of the conductive hearing loss component with medications or surgery, if possible. The sensorineural hearing loss that remains may be treated with hearing aids.