Hearing loss can have a significant impact on your life and can leave you feeling isolated from your friends and family. Luckily, treatment for this condition can significantly improve your ability to communicate with loved ones. The first step in getting help for your hearing impairment is making an appointment to determine what type of hearing loss you are suffering from and what options are available to improve your quality of life. There are two main varieties: conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Some individuals have mixed hearing loss, which has aspects of both types and is treated with a combination of methods. Both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss have different causes, symptoms, and options for treatment.
More information about conductive vs. sensorineural hearing loss:
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves cannot be transferred properly through the middle or outer ear. This is often due to a physical blockage. Causes in the outer ear include cerumen (ear wax) build-up, exostoses (abnormal bone growth), a tumor, or stenosis of the ear canal (a narrow or blocked auditory canal that can be genetic or acquired). Conductive hearing loss can also arise due to middle ear issues including ear infections, a perforated eardrum, malformed ossicles (ear bones), or eardrum scarring. Some inner ear conditions can also result in this type of hearing impairment.
Signs & Symptoms
- Sounds are more muffled or quieter than usual.
- Your voice sounds different to you or seems louder than it has been in the past.
- One ear may be easier to hear from than the other.
- Your ear(s) feel painful or blocked.
- You notice foul smells or discharge coming from your ear(s). This can indicate an ear infection, one possible cause of conductive hearing loss.
Conductive Hearing Loss Treatment
The treatment for this type of hearing impairment will depend on the underlying cause. If there is a blockage, this will need to be removed. In the case of ear wax, this can be flushed out of the ear. For other types of blockages, surgery may be necessary. Conductive hearing loss is often temporary and can be reversed with proper treatment. However, it is possible for the damage to be permanent, and in these situations hearing aids may be helpful.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is a result of issues with how sound moves from the ear to the brain. This can occur due to damage to the tiny hair cells in your inner ear which record information about the volume and pitch of sounds. Continued exposure to sound results in loss of these cells over time. Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is one example of sensorineural hearing impairment, but the condition can also be genetic.
Signs & Symptoms
- You have trouble hearing high-frequency sounds, such as the voices of women or children.
- Specific speech sounds are more difficult to hear than others.
- You feel that sounds are too loud or too quiet.
- You can hear what people are saying to you, but cannot understand the words.
- Hearing is more difficult if more than one person is talking to you or if there is a lot of background noise.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss Treatment
This type of hearing loss is permanent, so it cannot be completely reversed. Instead, treatment focuses on improving your ability to communicate. Hearing aids are the most common form of treatment and the Better Hearing Institute has found that they can help 95% of Americans suffering from hearing loss. These devices amplify sound and transmit it directly into your ear, which makes it easier to hear and understand what others are saying. In combination with other forms of aural rehabilitation, this can lead to dramatic improvement.
Get the Hearing Loss Treatment You Need
At Alltones Audiology, we can help you manage your hearing impairment and improve your quality of life. Our specialists come to you and provide the hearing health care you need in the comfort of your own home. We use a variety of aural rehabilitation methods and work with you to find the best options for your unique situation.