Are There Different Kinds of Hearing Loss?

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

Have you ever bought one of those “one size fits all” t-shirts only to be dismayed (and surprised) when the shirt does not, in fact, fit as advertised? That’s truly aggravating. There aren’t really very many “one size fits all” with anything in the real world. That’s not only relevant with clothing, it’s also true with medical conditions like hearing loss. This can be accurate for numerous reasons.

So what’s the cause of hearing loss? And what’s the most prevalent kind of hearing loss? Well, that’s exactly what we intend to find out.

Hearing loss comes in different types

Everybody’s hearing loss situation will be as individual as they are. Perhaps you hear perfectly well at the office, but not in a crowded restaurant. Or, maybe certain frequencies of sound get lost. Your loss of hearing can take a wide variety of shapes.

The root cause of your hearing loss will dictate how it manifests. Because your ear is a fairly complex little organ, there are lots of things that can go wrong.

How does hearing work?

Before you can totally understand how hearing loss works, or what degree of hearing loss requires a hearing aid, it’s practical to consider how things are supposed to function, how your ear is usually supposed to work. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Outer ear: This is the part of the ear that’s visible. It’s the initial sound receiver. Sounds are efficiently funneled into your middle ear for further processing due to the shape of your outer ear.
  • Middle ear: The eardrum and several tiny bones are what your middle ear is composed of (yes, you have bones in your ear, but they are admittedly very, very tiny).
  • Inner ear: Your stereocilia are found hear. Vibration is detected by these fragile hairs which are then converted into electrical signals. Your cochlea plays a part in this too. These electrical signals are then sent to your brain.
  • Auditory nerve: This nerve sends these electrical signals to the brain.
  • Auditory system: From your brain to your outer ear, the “auditory system” encompasses all of the elements discussed above. It’s essential to understand that all of these elements are continually working together and in unison with one another. Usually, in other words, the whole system will be affected if any one part has problems.

Hearing loss types

Because there are multiple parts of your auditory system, there are (as a result) numerous forms of hearing loss. The root cause of your hearing loss will determine which type of hearing loss you experience.

Here are some of the most common causes:

  • Conductive hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss occurs because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, frequently in the middle or outer ear. Normally, this blockage is due to fluid or inflammation (when you have an ear infection, for instance, this typically happens). A growth in the ear can occasionally cause conductive hearing loss. Normally, with conductive hearing loss, your hearing will return to normal when the blockage is gone.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss: When the tiny hairs that pick up sound, called stereocilia, are damaged by loud sound they are usually destroyed. Usually, this is a chronic, progressive and permanent form of hearing loss. Because of this, individuals are usually encouraged to prevent this type of hearing loss by wearing ear protection. Even though sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, it can be effectively managed with hearing aids.
  • Mixed hearing loss: It sometimes happens that somebody will experience both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss at the same time. This can sometimes be challenging to treat because the hearing loss is coming from different places.
  • Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: ANSD is a relatively rare condition. When sound is not effectively transmitted from your ear to your brain, this kind of hearing loss happens. ANSD can normally be managed with a device known as a cochlear implant.

The desired results are the same even though the treatment solution will vary for each form of hearing loss: to improve or maintain your ability to hear.

Variations on hearing loss kinds

And there’s more. Any of these common types of hearing loss can be further categorized (and more specifically). Here are some examples:

  • 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.
  • Fluctuating or stable: If your hearing loss tends to come and go, it may be referred to as fluctuating. If your hearing loss stays at roughly the same levels, it’s known as stable.
  • Progressive or sudden: You have “progressive” hearing loss if it gradually worsens over time. If your hearing loss occurs all at once, it’s called “sudden”.
  • Acquired hearing loss: If you experience hearing loss as a result of external causes, such as damage, it’s known as “acquired”.
  • 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.
  • Pre-lingual or post-lingual: Hearing loss is known as pre-lingual when it develops before you learned to talk. Hearing loss is post-lingual when it develops after you learned to speak. This can have ramifications for treatment and adaptation.
  • Congenital hearing loss: Hearing loss you were born with.
  • Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: It’s possible to develop hearing loss in one ear (unilateral), or in both (bilateral).

That might seem like a lot, and it is. But your hearing loss will be more effectively treated when we’re able to use these classifications.

A hearing test is in order

So how do you know which type, and what sub-type, of hearing loss you have? Unfortunately, hearing loss isn’t really something you can accurately diagnose by yourself. As an example, is your cochlea working correctly, how would you know?

But you can get a hearing test to determine exactly what’s going on. It’s like when you have a check engine light on in your car and you take it to a qualified auto technician. We can help you identify what type of hearing loss you have by connecting you to a wide range of modern technology.

So the best way to figure out what’s happening is to make an appointment with us today!


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.

Questions? Talk To Us.