Hearing problems are grouped in a number of ways. The exact section of the auditory system affected is what determines the categorization. The hearing loss may be sensorineural, conductive, central, functional or mixed. The starting point in designing a treatment plan is to accurately diagnose the kind of hearing impairment.
Sensorineural hearing loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is responsible for more than 90 percent of the cases in which a hearing aid is used. It is the result of damage in the interior of the ear or to the acoustic nerve, which keeps sound signals from reaching the brain. Also referred to as nerve deafness or retrocochlear hearing loss, the damage is generally speaking permanent, though advancements in technology have enabled some formerly untreatable cases to see some improvement.
The most common reasons behind sensorineural hearing loss are aging, extended exposure to noise, problems with circulation of blood to the interior of the ear, fluid disturbance in the inner ear, medications that cause injury to the ear, some diseases, genetics and issues with the auditory nerve.
Hearing aids are satisfactory for most people who have this type of hearing loss, but in more severe cases, a cochlear implant can help bring back hearing to those individuals for whom a conventional hearing aid is insufficient.
Conductive hearing loss
When sound waves are not completely conducted to the interior of the ear through the structures of the outer and middle ear, conductive hearing loss occurs. Conductive hearing loss is quite widespread and could be caused by a buildup of ear wax, an accumulation of fluid in the eustacian tube, which keeps the eardrum from moving properly, a middle ear infection, a perforated eardrum, disease of the tiny bones of the middle ear and other obstructions in the ear canal.
The majority of cases of this type of hearing loss are reversible, assuming there isn’t any permanent damage to the structures of the middle ear, and with treatment the trouble usually resolves in a short amount of time. In some instances surgery can help to correct the problem or a hearing aid may be fitted.
Central hearing loss
Central hearing loss occurs when an issue in the central nervous system prevents sound signals from being processed and interpreted by the brain. The person affected can ostensibly hear perfectly well, but can’t decode or decipher what is being said. Many cases involve a problem with the individual’s capacity to adequately filter rival sounds. For example, most of us can have a conversation while there is traffic noise in the background, but people with this problem have a really hard time with this.
Functional hearing loss
An infrequent situation, this type of hearing loss does not have a psysiological explanation. Functional hearing loss is caused by psychological or emotional problem in which the person’s physical ability to hear is found to be normal, but they do not seem to be able to hear.
Mixed hearing loss
As the term suggests, mixed hearing loss is a combination of different types of hearing loss, in this case the combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. Though there are a few other types of hearing loss, the combination of these two is most frequent.