Types of hearing loss

Hearing loss can come from an issue or issues with the inner, middle or outer ear and exists in various degrees of severity

Understanding the different types of hearing loss is crucial as it influences what treatment options are available. Depending on the severity and type of hearing loss there are different solutions.

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What are the types of hearing loss?

There are three categories commonly used to define the type of hearing loss someone may have. These categories are determined by identifying the part of the ear where the problem comes from:

  • Conductive Hearing Loss
    Conductive hearing loss means that sound cannot get through the outer or middle ear. This type of hearing loss may be caused by fluid, earwax or an infection in the ear, and is often temporary. Medication or surgery may be a solution for conductive hearing loss.

  • Sensorineural Hearing Loss
    Sensorineural hearing loss comes from issues with the inner ear. This type of hearing loss is usually permanent. Age, noise and genetics are common reasons for sensorineural hearing loss. Hearing aids and cochlear implants are the most likely solutions to allow someone with sensorineural hearing loss to hear again.

  • Mixed Hearing Loss
    This type of hearing loss is a combination of conductive-, as well as sensorineural hearing loss.

To learn more about how the different types of hearing loss are obtained please refer to our section on causes of hearing loss.

Degrees of hearing loss

Degrees of hearing loss are categorized from hearing thresholds as mild, moderate, severe or profound. Having your hearing professionally tested is the only way to determine the extent of your hearing loss, and how best to treat it.

Mild hearing loss
Soft noises are not heard. Understanding speech is difficult in a loud environment.

Moderate hearing loss
Soft and moderately loud noises are not heard. Understanding speech becomes very difficult with background noise.

Severe hearing loss
Conversations have to be conducted loudly. Group conversations require a lot of effort.

Profound hearing loss
Some very loud noises are heard. Without a hearing aid, communication is no longer possible even with intense effort.

Hearing loss in one ear
Hearing loss is also defined by whether one ear is affected (unilateral hearing loss) or both (bilateral hearing loss). This distinction is especially important because there are specific solutions for single-sided hearing loss which are not available to a person with bilateral hearing loss.

Congenital vs. acquired hearing loss
The cause of hearing loss can be categorized into congenital (hearing loss present at birth) or acquired (hearing loss present soon after birth).

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