Your ears are a complex organ and damage to varying parts can lead to different types of hearing loss. Whether it’s the ability to discern between sounds or hear softer ones, hearing loss can be frustrating and directly affect many aspects of your life from working to spending quality time with your family. Below we explain the different types of hearing loss and what can potentially cause each one. It’s important to remember that, although researching hearing loss can be the first step, a hearing test is the only way to determine what type of loss you or your loved one may be experiencing.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type and usually occurs naturally as you get older. This type of hearing loss reduces the intensity of sound and may also introduce a level of distortion over time. People with sensorineural loss typically say they are able to hear things but have trouble understanding what they’re hearing. This type of hearing loss is a result of inner ear or auditory nerve dysfunction. Sensorineural hearing loss typically does not respond to medical treatment and is usually a permanent condition that cannot be reversed. However, hearing aids can help in correcting sensorineural hearing loss.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss is caused by any condition or disease that blocks the travel of sound through the ear. With this type of hearing loss, the listener must exert more energy to hear faint sounds because the blockage reduces the volume of incoming sounds to the ear. Conductive hearing loss is usually moderate and is sometimes temporary.  When treating conductive hearing loss, medical treatment or surgery may result in partial or complete hearing improvement but it is not always successful. If surgery is required but does not improve hearing completely, hearing aids can be effective in correcting any remaining hearing loss.

Mixed Hearing Loss

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss,  that is generally called mixed hearing loss. Mixed hearing loss occurs when there’s some auditory nerve disorder in addition to a blockage of the middle ear, making the hearing loss even worse. Since part of mixed hearing loss is conductive, surgery or other medical treatment may help improve that component but the sensorineural hearing loss is likely permanent. Hearing aids can help correct mixed hearing loss.

It important to remember the only way to know for sure what kind of hearing loss you or your loved one may be experiencing is by seeing a professional.