There are four types of hearing loss:
(We will only focus on the first three. With a retrocochlear hearing loss, the problem lies in the pathway between the hearing nerve and the brain. Causes of retrocochlear hearing loss can be disease, tumor, structural deformities, toxic agents, and disruption of blood supply. There is rarely medical treatment that will improve this type of hearing loss.)
In order to understand “abnormal,” we must first understand “normal.”
A normal audiogram has its symbols, both air conduction and bone conduction at the top of the graph. All of these symbols should be above the horizontal bar representing 25 dB for every pitch tested. Normal hearing ranges from –10 to 25 dB, and there should be no difference between the air and bone conduction symbols.
A conductive hearing loss occurs when there is a breakdown in the conduction of sound due to a problem in the outer or middle ear.
This could be due to wax/debris in the outer ear, a structural deformity of the outer or middle ear structures, a hole in the eardrum, dislocation of the ear bones, fibrous growth on the ear bones, negative air pressure in the middle ear, middle-ear fluid/pus, or cholesteatoma. Conductive hearing losses are usually medically treatable.
A sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear. This loss is often referred to as “nerve deafness,” although it is not an accurate reference. This hearing loss occurs due to damage in the cochlea and its structures, especially the “sensory” hair cells. A sensorineural hearing loss not only includes a loss of loudness, it also could mean a decrease in understanding.
Causes of this type of hearing loss include aging, noise, certain diseases of the ear, ototoxic agents, and structural damage. There is rarely medical treatment for this type of hearing loss.
With a sensorineural hearing loss, there is no or very little difference between the air and bone conduction thresholds, and the symbols are no longer above the 25 dB line. The further down the graph the symbols are, the greater the hearing loss. Some sensorineural losses fluctuate, and they tend to get worse over time.
A mixed hearing loss consists of a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing losses. Causes are the same for each loss respectively. There is a difference between the air and bone thresholds and the symbols fall below the 25 dB line.
Your options depend on the type of hearing loss you have.
First, you should get a hearing test done by an audiologist. An audiologist has either a master’s degree, a Ph.D. or a clinical doctorate degree. Their education can vary from seven to ten years, and they can counsel you on the best options for your hearing loss.
You should see an Ear, Nose and Throat physician to be sure that there is nothing that can be corrected medically. If there is no medical treatment for your loss, you should talk to your audiologist about the use of hearing aids. They will discuss the different options available for you, including their associated costs.
They’re not as obvious as your hearing loss! Hearing aids have dramatically improved over the years and come in many shapes and sizes ranging from noticeable to discreet.
They also have many price points, although most insurances do not cover hearing aids.
Using hearing aids to treat your hearing loss can help you:
Questions about hearing or hearing loss? Contact us to learn more.