Hearing loss may take many different forms and occur as the result of a number of causes, and to fully understand them you need to understand the way in which we hear. Along with the eardrum and the ear canal, the outer ear is the section of the ear on the outside of the head which receives sounds. The middle ear includes the eardrum as well, but also is comprised of the ossicles (three small bones that convert sound vibrations into information and transmit them to the inner ear). The inner ear consists of a snail-shaped organ called the cochlea, two semicircular canals which help us keep our balance, and a set of acoustic nerves that lead to the brain. All of this is exceedingly sophisticated and delicate, and a problem in any section may result in hearing loss. Hearing loss is usually split into 4 primary classifications.
The first class is conductive hearing loss, which is caused by an obstruction or interference which hinders the sounds from being properly transmitted through the outer or middle ear. This type of hearing loss can frequently be solved with medication or a surgical procedure; if surgery is not an option, conductive hearing loss can be treated with the use of hearing aids.
The second classification is sensorineural hearing loss, which is caused by damage in the inner ear – to the cochlea, to the hair cells lining the inner ear, or to the acoustic nerves themselves. This damage can in most cases not be effectively remedied by medication or surgery, but can be minimized through the use of hearing aids.
The third classification is mixed hearing loss, which is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, and which can often be treated using the same combinations of surgery, medication, and hearing aids.
Central hearing loss occurs when sound enters the ear normally, but because of damage either to the inner ear (especially to the cochlea) or to the auditory nerves, it cannot be organized in a way that the brain can understand.
Spanning each of these four main classifications are sub-categories of degree, meaning that the hearing loss may be mid-level, moderate, severe, or profound. Hearing loss is typically classified with additional sub-categories including whether the hearing loss occurs in one or both ears (unilateral vs. bilateral), whether the degree of hearing loss is the same in both ears (symmetrical vs. asymmetrical), or whether the hearing loss occurred before or after learning to speak (pre-lingual or post-lingual). Additional sub-categories of hearing loss includes whether it is progressive vs. sudden, whether the hearing loss is fluctuating vs. stable, and whether the hearing loss was present at birth (congenital) or developed later in life (acquired). If you suffer from any of these forms of hearing loss, our specialists can help to diagnose it and then to treat it most effectively.