Types of Hearing Loss, Risks and Prevention

hand and ear

Hearing loss is experienced by over 50 million Americans, and it would be very naïve to think that they all have the same type of hearing loss. In truth, hearing loss is a term that can cover a range of sources and symptoms. 

If you suspect that you have hearing loss of any kind, it’s imperative that you book an appointment with an audiologist ASAP. In the meantime, here’s all you need to know about the types of hearing loss, as well as risks and prevention.

The main types of hearing loss explained

First and foremost, it should be noted that not all hearing loss is permanent or ongoing.

Temporary hearing loss can be caused by a host of issues, including exposure to loud noises (music events, construction sites, etc.), illness, and medication side effects. If you experience temporary hearing loss due to these reasons and find that normality is restored naturally after a few days, it’s probably nothing to worry about.

Conversely, though, ongoing and degenerative hearing loss can be split into four categories:

Auditory Processing Disorders

Auditory Processing Disorders relate to the brain’s ability to process sound information in a correct fashion. The common symptoms of this condition include difficulties following speech or knowing where sounds come from. Other symptoms may relate to distinguishing similar sounds or concentrating in busy environments.

APD often starts in childhood, although its effects can surface in adulthood.

Conductive

Conductive hearing loss relates to the transmission of sound from the outer ear and middle ear to the inner ear. There are many potential reasons behind this type of hearing loss, including wax buildup, fluid in the ear, infections, perforated eardrums, abnormalities in the middle ear like Otosclerosis.

This type of hearing loss is most common in children.

Sensorineural

Sensorineural hearing loss is the type most commonly associated with age, although other reasons such as genetics can play a role, and is almost always permanent. It occurs when damage occurs in the Cochlea, often the loss of the tiny hairs that carry sound. Damage to the auditory nerve is another semi-frequent cause.

Hearing aids are almost always the main product used to treat this type of hearing loss.

Mixed

Mixed hearing loss is when elements of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss are found. While the levels associated with each part can vary from one person to the next, the sensorineural hearing loss component is always permanent. At the same time, the conductive aspects can be either permanent or temporary.

This type of hearing loss can also be present when people with Presbycusis catch an ear infection.

What about hearing loss severity?

In addition to the different causes of hearing loss, audiologists can categorize cases based on the level of severity. There are four levels of hearing loss to consider, which are; 

  • Mild: A loss of 20-39 dB
  • Moderate: A loss of 40–70 dB
  • Severe: A loss of 71-90 dB
  • Profound: A loss of over 91 dB

Some audiologists may use further breakdowns with hearing loss below 20 dB (but above the normal hearing range) being classified as Slight while the Moderate category can be split into Moderate and Moderate-Severe. Finally, if all hearing is lost, this is total deafness.

What causes hearing loss?

As already touched upon above, hearing loss can be attributed to many different causes. While some types of hearing loss are more likely to be experienced due to a particular reason than others, it is worth knowing the most common causes regardless of which type or severity of hearing loss is experienced.

Hearing loss is normally attributed to at least one, if not several, of the following reasons;

  • Age, and the natural damage that occurs over time
  • Genetics, especially if you have a family history on both sides
  • Ethnicity, some forms are more likely in certain races than others
  • Exposure to loud noises, particularly if it’s on a frequent basis
  • Underlying health conditions or side effects to medications

There are many other reasons for experiencing hearing loss. Whatever the reason might be, an audiologist is the best person to treat it.

How to prevent and manage hearing loss

Hearing loss can be prevented by protecting your ears in loud situations such as construction sites, music venues, public transport. Likewise, protection for swimming and similar situations can have a hugely positive impact on the situation. Crucially, if hearing loss is detected early, an audiologist can find the right hearing aids or management plan to reduce the impacts on your daily life.

To find out more, call Peninsula Hearing at 360-697-3061 (Poulsbo) or 360-379-5458 (Port Townsend) today.