There are many different types of hearing loss. While some conditions are congenital (present at birth), others occur later in life. Some hearing impairments are the result of damage or exposure to noise, some can occur because of illness, and others can result from accidents. Some hearing problems will occur within the hearing pathway, while other neurological conditions occur within the brain.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss is associated with the outer ear, which is the part of the ear that is visible. It is characterized by a loss of loudness. Conductive hearing loss can be acquired or congenital. A person suffering from this kind of hearing loss will have problems understanding conversations and picking up on background noises. Surgery can sometimes help with this kind of hearing loss, as can hearing aids.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the inner ear (including the cochlea) is damaged. This part of the ear is integral to translating the vibrations from the other parts of the ears into electrical signals that the brain can understand. Sensorineural hearing problems can affect both the loudness and the clarity of sounds. Many people suffer this kind of impairment as a result of aging and can benefit from a hearing aid. This kind of loss is also caused by diseases such as mumps and measles, drugs that affect the hearing process, and accidents.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Sometimes hearing loss is caused by damage to more than one part of the ear. When conductive and sensorineural hearing loss both occur in a person, the impairment is classified as mixed hearing loss. This often happens when the outer or inner ear is damaged earlier in life, due to disease or an ear infection for example, and then the nerve pathway that begins at the inner ear deteriorates due to the aging process.
Central Hearing Loss
Once the inner ear creates an electrical signal that is passed on to the brain, we are able to interpret and understand the sounds around us. However, sometimes neurological problems stop this from happening. Central hearing loss occurs when there is a problem within the central nervous system that prevents hearing. Usually, this is a problem with comprehension; the person can hear perfectly but they cannot make sense of the sounds around them.
If you suspect that you have a hearing impairment, an online hearing test is a good start in finding out if you have suffered hearing loss. Hearing tests are able to locate the source of a hearing problem. Seeing a hearing specialist is a good first step in learning about your hearing problem and seeking out the best course of action.