Based on some study reports and evaluations relevant to hearing disorders, the hearing loss for each patient is diagnosed and determined. While the audiometric tests and evaluations are the key to find the type of hearing loss, the symptoms and treatments for each individual varies.
Certain diagnostic test must be completed in order to find the types and severity of hearing loss that the patient has in order to make appropriate treatment recommendations.
Some of the common tests involved include audiometric tests, diagnostic tests and additional assessments. Physicians create a detailed hearing profile for the patient’s hearing system based on the symptoms and conduct the ENG balance test. Based on the final test reports, audiologic data and clinical evidences, physicians determine the type of hearing loss the person has. Based on the clinical data and symptoms, hearing loss can be categorized into three main types. Here is a detailed overview.
Conductive Hearing Loss:
Causes and symptoms:
The hearing loss caused by some health condition or disease that interferes with the hearing process by impeding sound in its mechanical form falls under this category of hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss is often found in people diagnosed with some associated health condition. This hearing loss can sometimes be a result of the blockage in the external ear canal.
Any health disorder that unfavorably affects the ear canal and the middle ear’s ability to transmit mechanical energy in the form of sound can result in the conductive hearing loss. Because the result of this hearing loss involves the reduction of the sound intensity, the mechanical energy reaching the inner ear is lower than the original stimulus. Thus, the affected individual needs more intensity and energy to hear the sound when he has a conductive hearing loss.
Other causes of such hearing loss can be due to Stenosis, which is a condition involving narrowing of the ear canal. Wax impaction sometimes worsens the hearing loss condition too. People with sensorineural hearing loss may develop a mixed hearing loss due to conductive hearing loss. Exostoses, Otitis externa and obstructions in the ear due to accidental insertion of foreign bodies into the ear can also cause conductive hearing loss.
Any changes in the middle ear with an impact on the tympanic membrane can cause such type of hearing loss. Ear infection is a major cause of such hearing problem too. This is because such symptoms can cause rapid air pressure changes around the ear and cause tympanosclerosis. Fluid retention in the middle ear is another cause of conductive hearing problem too. Because of the excess water accumulation in the middle ear, one may have blocked Eustachian tube. This condition may lead to Otosclerosis and conductive hearing loss eventually. Tumor or cancerous growth in the middle ear can lead to either temporary or permanent hearing loss.
Generally, the cause of such hearing loss is always associated with some medical condition. Once the health condition is addressed with an appropriate medical treatment, conductive hearing loss can be easily managed. Hearing aids are quite effective in improving the hearing capability and correcting the remaining hearing loss in this case. If the audiometric profile reveals that the person has a canal blockage in the external ear, hearing test results may not be accurate until the canal is cleared. The presence of the air-bone gaps can also worsen the conductive hearing loss symptoms. Audiologists work closely with the patient to help him in excellent word recognition and for the improvement in hearing and comfortable listening level. Plus, they monitor the hearing improvement and the condition in the patients to see if a long-term hearing solution is needed.
Sensorineural hearing loss:
Causes and symptoms:
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss found in individuals. This is a type of permanent hearing loss that occurs if the inner ear cells or the nerve cells are damaged. The auditory nerves found in inner ear play an important role in the sound signal transfer and receive. When these cells are damaged or weakened, the transfer of nerve signals to the brain is negatively impacted.
This, in turn, blocks the nerve signals that transfer the information of loudness and sound clarity to the brain. Eventually, the person develops hearing loss. The major cause of such hearing loss can be the repeated exposure to loud noise and sounds. In some individuals, sensorineural hearing loss is most likely due to a genetic syndrome. Infections like rubella, herpes and toxoplasmosis to the pregnant mother can cause such hearing loss problems in the fetus. Sometimes sensorineural hearing problems can be caused by a variety of triggers, which include:
- Auto-immune problems
- Severe ear infections, including scarlet fever, measles and mumps
- Traumatic head injuries damaging ear nerves and causing sudden hearing loss
- Exposure to extremely loud noises
- Acoustic neuroma
- Meniere’s disease
- Medicine reaction and side effects
Individuals with sensorineural type of hearing loss often find difficulty in understanding and following conversation when more than two persons are speaking. This is due to the unclear hearing. Such individuals also complain problems listening in noisy environments. Other symptoms include constant ringing or buzzing sound in the ears and frequent off-balance feel. For a complete hearing solution, it is recommended to use vibrating alerting devices, assistive phones and alarm clocks with vibration feature.
Although there are no significant surgical or medical treatments available for such hearing loss, hearing aids can successfully help people with sensorineural hearing loss. Depending on the severity of hearing loss, physicians recommend cochlear implants and listening devices.
Mixed hearing loss:
Causes and symptoms:
This is the type of hearing loss that includes symptoms of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. The causes of mixed hearing loss can be due to many reasons, which include some traumatic injury causing sudden hearing loss, genetic conditions and hearing loss or a type of hearing loss intensified by another. People with long-standing conductive hearing loss have a chance to develop sensorineural hearing loss over a course of time.
Presbycusis is another cause of mixed hearing loss. As a person ages, his hearing capacity drastically decreases. Understanding the age related hearing loss is important when you already have hearing loss symptoms. Wax impaction can also lead to a temporary mixed hearing loss in individuals who already have sensorineural hearing loss. The symptoms in this kind of hearing loss include combined symptoms of both the hearing loss types.
Treatment options range from transplant to hearing aid usage. Because mixed hearing loss conditions can be a temporary condition in some individuals, audiologists will have to perform detailed checks in order to determine the appropriate treatment options. Surgical procedures and medical treatments are common treatment approaches in case of mixed hearing loss. If the detailed diagnosis reveals that a greater portion of the hearing loss resembles sensorineural, hearing aids may be the best treatment option and solution.
It is very important to opt for hearing loss treatment as soon as you find out. A detailed diagnosis and consultation with physician will help you finding the right treatment plan for your hearing loss. It is true that all hearing loss conditions are treatable with various hearing aids. In many cases, physicians may need implantable devices and assistive devices to treat hearing loss in individuals. Whether you or your loved ones are experiencing symptoms of a hearing loss, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional as soon as possible to find the suitable and corresponding treatment options.
Some type of hearing loss can be due to a result of other abnormalities like an ear canal blockage or stenosis. It is difficult to treat hearing loss without treating the underlying medical condition. Physicians may need assistive hearing devices and conductive hearing aids or middle ear implants to treat hearing loss in some individuals. If the person has a mixed hearing loss, physicians may recommend two different approaches for the hearing loss treatment and for a complete hearing solution.
About Dr Stella Fulman
Dr. Stella Fulman, AU.D., CCC-A received her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Audiology from Brooklyn College in 2004 and her Doctorate of Audiology from Salus University in 2008. [ Learn More ]