Types of Hearing Loss

There are many different reasons why one may have a hearing loss. Each may present itself as a certain type of hearing loss. Here are the differences:

Conductive hearing loss: Occurs when sound is unable to move through the outer ear and/or middle ear in order to stimulate the inner ear.  A conductive hearing loss typically means there are no issues with the cochlea or auditory nerve.  Common causes include ear wax, fluid behind the ear drum, or a tiny hole in the ear drum. Conductive losses may or may not be permanent.

Sensorineural hearing loss: Damage to the tiny hair cells in the cochlea or along the auditory nerve. This type of hearing loss is usually permanent.  Damage to the hair cells in the cochlea is irreversible.

Mixed hearing loss: Mixed hearing loss refers to people who have both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.

Central hearing loss: This occurs when the central nervous system fails to send a readable signal to the brain, which is called a central auditory processing disorder. People with central hearing loss generally can hear all sounds, but can’t separate or process them.

**Additional information which may be used to describe hearing loss:

  • Bilateral
    • Both ears
  • Unilateral
    • One ear
  • Symmetrical
    • Both ears, same degree of hearing loss
  • Asymmetrical
    • Different degree of hearing loss in each ear
  • Progressive
    • Worsens over time


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