Hearing loss is hearing loss, right? Don’t be so sure. While the results are the same—you can’t hear as well as you used to—there are multiple types of hearing loss. This is important, because different types of hearing loss require different types of treatment.

How Does Hearing Work?

Different types of hearing loss affect the ear differently, so it’s important to know how the ear and the hearing process actually work. The ear is divided into three regions:

  • The outer ear
  • The middle ear
  • The inner ear

The outer ear is most of what people can see when they look at an ear. The structure itself is called the auricle, and its job is to amplify sound. That sound travels through the ear canal to the middle ear.

The ear canal leads to the eardrum in the middle ear. The incoming soundwaves make the eardrum vibrate, and those vibrations are passed onto the bones of the middle ear (the malleus, the incus and the stapes). These bones further amplify the sound, which then goes to the cochlea in the inner ear.

The cochlea is filled with fluid, and the sound waves cause this fluid to ripple. Sensory cells called hair cells pick up these ripples and convert them into electrical energy, which is then transmitted via the auditory nerve to the brain, where the sound is then interpreted.

Types of Hearing Loss

There are two main types of hearing loss: sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss is by far the more common of the two, responsible for about 90 percent of all cases of hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss is a problem with the inner ear—specifically, with the hair cells that convert sound waves to electrical impulses. These cells are lost in the course of normal aging, but they can also be damaged by exposure to excessive noise.

Other causes of sensorineural hearing loss include:

  • Certain health conditions such as measles, meningitis, mumps or anything that causes high fever
  • Ototoxic drugs
  • Trauma to the head

Conductive hearing loss, on the other hand, is a problem transmitting sound from the outer or middle ear to the inner ear. This type of hearing loss is sometimes temporary, resulting from blockages in the ear canal. Causes can include:

  • Congenital (at-birth) deformities of the outer or middle ear
  • Ear infections
  • Earwax
  • Foreign object in the ear
  • Fluid in the ear
  • Hole in the eardrum

Getting Treatment for Hearing Loss

Determining the type of hearing loss you have begins with a hearing test. At Audiology Associates, we have 11 locations throughout Maryland. When you come to one of our centers, we’ll administer advanced diagnostic tests to determine what type of hearing loss you have. Then we’ll make custom recommendations for treatment.

If you need a hearing aid, we carry the latest models from the most trusted brands. Our professionals will ensure your hearing aid has the perfect fit and is tuned to help you hear your best. And, we offer a comprehensive follow-up care program. Request an appointment today.