Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can develop at any age and may be caused by many different factors.  Hearing loss is most often categorized as sensorineural, conductive, or mixed.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Also incorrectly called "nerve-related" hearing loss, it occurs when the inner ear or the actual hearing organ itself becomes permanently damaged.  Sensorineural loss is the most common type of hearing loss.  It can be a result of aging, exposure to loud noise, inury, disease, oto-toxic drugs, or an inherited condition.  This type of hearing loss is typically not medically or surgically treatable.  However, many people with this type of loss find that hearing aids can be beneficial.

Conductive Hearing Loss

This kind of hearing loss occurs in the outer or middle ear where sound waves cannot be conducted all the way through to the inner ear.  Sound may be blocked by earwax or a foreign object located in the ear canal; the middle ear space may be impacted by fluid and infection or a bone abnormality; or the eardrum may be injured.  In some people, conductive hearing loss may be a temporary loss that can be reversed through medical or sugical intervention.  Temporary conductive hearing loss is most common in children who may have recurrent ear infections.

Mixed Hearing Loss

This occurs when there is a combination of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.  People may have a sensorineural hearing loss and then develop a conductive component in addition to their original loss.

Central Hearing Loss

Also called "central deafness," this results from damage or impairment of the nerves or nuclei of the central nervous system, either in the pathways to the brain or in the brain itself.  Another phenomenon is "central auditory processing deficit," in which the person has normal hearing, but has difficulty processing and understanding the sounds.