A Review of the Terms Used in Hearing Loss Classifications

Hearing Health Blog
In the same way that there are many reasons for hearing loss, there are many different types of hearing loss; understanding the way that we hear is the first step in understanding the distinct types. We receive sounds through the outer ear, which is not just the part of the ear on the outside of our heads, but also the ear canal and the eardrum. The middle ear includes the eardrum as well, but also consists of the ossicles (three small bones that convert the vibrations of sound into information and transmit them to the inner ear). The inner ear has three key parts – the cochlea, the two semi-circular canals (important for balance) and the acoustic nerves which transmit the sound signals to the brain. All sections of the ear are sophisticated and fragile. Problems in any of the three sections – outer, middle or inner ear – can cause hearing loss. Four different classifications make up what we mean when we refer to “hearing loss.”

Conductive hearing loss is a result of something hindering the transmission of sound through the outer or middle ear. Conductive hearing loss is frequently curable using medication or with surgery, and if neither of the two succeeds, it is treatable using hearing aids.

Damage to the inner ear, including the cochlea, hair cells lining the inner ear, or the acoustic nerves is called sensorineural hearing loss. This damage can in most cases not be effectively remedied by medication or surgery, but can be minimized through the use of hearing aids.

The third classification is mixed hearing loss, which is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, and which can often be treated using the same combinations of surgery, medication, and hearing aids.

The fourth and final classification is called central hearing loss, and happens when sound passes through the ear normally, but some form of damage to the inner ear causes it to be scrambled so that it is not properly understood by our brains.

All hearing loss classifications include sub-categories for the degree of hearing loss and are classified as mid-level, moderate, severe, or profound. Hearing loss is typically classified with additional sub-categories including whether the hearing loss occurs in one or both ears (unilateral vs. bilateral), whether the degree of hearing loss is the same in both ears (symmetrical vs. asymmetrical), or whether the hearing loss occurred before or after learning to speak (pre-lingual or post-lingual). Additional sub-categories of hearing loss includes whether it is progressive vs. sudden, whether the hearing loss is fluctuating vs. stable, and whether the hearing loss was present at birth (congenital) or developed later in life (acquired). If you suffer from any of these forms of hearing loss, our specialists can help to diagnose it and then to treat it most effectively.

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