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What are the different types of hearing loss?

The three basic categories of hearing loss are:

  • sensorineural hearing loss;
  • conductive hearing loss; and
  • mixed hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the inner ear or the actual hearing never itself becomes damaged. This loss generally occurs when some of the hair cells within the cochlea are damaged. Sensorineural loss is the most common type of hearing loss. It can be a result of aging, exposure to loud noise, injury, disease, certain drugs or an inherited condition. Sudden sensorineural hearing loss may occur very suddenly or over the course of a few days. It is imperative to see a doctor immediately. A delay in treating this condition can decrease the chance that medications might help improve the problem.

Conductive hearing loss occurs in the outer or middle ear where sound waves are not able to carry all the way through to the inner ear. Sound may be blocked by earwax or a foreign object located in the ear canal; the middle ear space may be impacted with fluid, infection or a bone abnormality; or the eardrum may have been injured. In some people, conductive hearing loss may be reversed through medical or surgical intervention.

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.

Hearing testing is critical for discovering exactly what type of hearing loss you have and will help determine the hearing care solution that is right for you.

Updated on February 8, 2023

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