Hearing loss in both ears affects 1 in 8 people over age 12, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Some people are born with detectable levels of hearing loss, and hearing loss can develop at any age. You may not realize that there are different types of hearing loss.
Regardless of which type of hearing loss you have, board-certified ENT physician Dr. Conrad McCutcheon and licensed audiologist Marty Lippeatt, Au.D. work together at Memorial Village Sinus and Hearing in Houston, Texas, to diagnose your hearing loss and explore effective treatments for underlying conditions, including hearing aid options.
3 types of hearing loss
Hearing loss is categorized as either conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, or mixed hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss happens when sound waves can’t make it through your outer and middle ears. Because the sound waves can’t reach the inner ear, the result is muffled sounds. You may struggle to hear soft sounds at all.
Conductive hearing loss can be caused by any condition that blocks your middle and outer ear. This includes:
- Fluid buildup
- Otitis media (middle ear infections)
- External otitis (swimmer’s ear)
- Scar tissue
- Excessive earwax buildup
- Poor eustachian tube function
- Middle ear bone damage
- Eardrum damage, including a hole in your eardrum
- A foreign object stuck in your ear canal
If conductive hearing loss is limiting your ability to hear correctly, Dr. McCutcheon first pinpoints the cause of your hearing loss and then treats the underlying problem.
In many cases, treating the underlying problem can restore your hearing. For example, if fluid buildup due to allergies is causing muffled sounds, you may notice an improvement once your allergies are under control.
Sensorineural hearing loss
The second type of hearing loss is called sensorineural hearing loss. This type of hearing loss happens when there’s an issue with your inner ear or auditory nerve. If your auditory nerve can’t send signals to your brain, your brain can’t translate the signals as recognizable sounds.
Sensorineural hearing loss can develop due to:
- Injuries, especially a blow to the head
- Exposure to loud environmental sounds or loud music
- Other causes such as medications and medical conditions
Unfortunately, sensorineural hearing loss is often permanent. However, hearing aids can usually restore hearing.
Mixed hearing loss
As the name suggests, mixed hearing loss is a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
Exploring your next steps
If you’re having trouble hearing in situations with background noises such as in a restaurant, you’re asking people to repeat themselves often, or you’re noticing an increase in muffled sounds, your first step is to receive a comprehensive exam from a hearing specialist.
The next steps depend on what type of hearing loss you have and what has caused it. Potential treatments for hearing loss include:
- Clearing out ear wax
- Wearing special earplugs to prevent swimmer’s ear
- Taking antibiotics to clear up an infection
- Treating allergies
- Using hearing aids
If you need hearing aids, our licensed audiologist will explain your hearing aid options and help you choose the one that best suits your needs and lifestyle.
To schedule a comprehensive hearing evaluation, call Memorial Village Sinus and Hearing at 281-822-3777. You can also request an appointment online anytime.