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There are a few different types of hearing loss, depending on which part of the auditory pathway has been affected. In this article we provide an overview of five types – sensorineural, conductive, central, mixed and functional. Some forms of hearing loss are more treatable than others, and we will be able to guide you through your options after an initial examination.

Sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss accounts for over 90 percent of the situations in which a hearing aid is worn. It is the result of damage in the interior of the ear or to the acoustic nerve, which blocks sound signals from being transmitted to the brain. Also referred to as retrocochlear hearing loss or nerve deafness, the impairment is more often than not permanent, though improvements in modern technology have enabled some previously untreatable cases to see some improvement.

The most common factors that cause sensorineural hearing loss are the aging process, extended exposure to noise, problems with blood flow to the inner ear, fluid disturbance in the inner ear, drugs that cause damage to the ear, some diseases, heredity and issues with the auditory nerve.

Hearing aids are satisfactory for most people who have this sort of hearing loss, but in more severe cases, a cochlear implant can help restore hearing to those individuals for whom a standard hearing aid is insufficient.

Conductive hearing loss

When sound waves are not sufficiently conducted to the inner ear through the outer and middle ear, conductive hearing loss arises. This is very widespread and could be due to an accumulation of ear wax, a buildup of moisture in the eustacian tube, which keeps the eardrum from moving properly, a middle ear infection, a perforated eardrum, disease of the tiny bones of the middle ear and other blockages in the ear canal.

Most instances of this type of hearing loss are reversible, presuming there is no irreversible damage to the regions of the middle ear, and with treatment the trouble usually resolves in a short amount of time. In some instances surgery can assist in correcting the problem or a hearing aid may be fitted.

Mixed hearing loss

As the term suggests, mixed hearing loss is a mixture of different types of hearing loss, in this case the combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. Though there are a few other kinds of hearing loss, the combination of these 2 is most common.

Central hearing loss

Central hearing loss arises when a problem in the central nervous system blocks sound signals from being processed by the brain. Affected individuals can ostensibly hear perfectly well, but cannot understand or decipher what is being said. Many cases involve a problem with the person’s capacity to effectively filter competing sounds. For instance, the majority of us can have a conversation with street traffic in the background, but people with this problem have a really hard time with this.

Functional hearing loss

A rare situation, functional hearing loss does not have a psysiological explanation. This condition is caused by an emotional or psychological problem in which the person’s physical hearing is normal, but they are not able to hear.