The majority of hearing losses can be divided into three main categories or types. In order of prevalence, these are Sensorineural, Conductive, and Mixed loss, a mixture of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss components.
Sensorineural hearing loss
The most prevalent form of hearing loss is sensorineural, which is more commonly referred to as nerve deafness. The etiology of sensorineural loss involves damage to the cochlea, or inner ear from a variety of causes. In a sensory type loss, sound levels are reduced, impacting the ability of the hearing impaired individual to hear soft sounds clearly and understand speech.
In the majority of cases, the most popular and optimal treatment for sensorineural hearing loss is the successful fitting of hearing aids programmed to precisely correct the individual’s hearing loss profile. Only rarely can medical or surgical intervention correct a sensorineural loss.
Conductive hearing loss
The second most common form of hearing loss is termed conductive hearing loss. Conductive loss is defined by the inability of the hearing mechanism to efficiently carry sound signals from the outer ear to the oval window, the doorway to the cochlea. A conductive loss can potentially involve each successive element in the chain: ear canal, eardrum, and the middle ear. Something as simple as impacted earwax can cause a conductive loss.
Conductive hearing loss usually involves a marked reduction in an individual’s ability to clearly hear soft consonant sounds in speech. Medical and surgical options can often be prescribed to correct a conductive loss.
Mixed Hearing Loss
A mixed loss is described as a conductive hearing loss occuring in tandem with sensorineural hearing loss. In the case of a mixed loss, damage to the outer or middle ear occurs in combination with damage to the cochlea or auditory nerve.