Hearing Loss : Types, Common reasons, Degree, Signs that you should see an ENT
The causes of hearing loss can vary significantly depending on the type of hearing impairment. Particularly in cases of sensorineural hearing loss, which occurs due to damage to the auditory nerve, aging is almost always the predominant cause. Sudden sensorineural hearing loss often occurs without a clear cause and is mostly idiopathic.
This article discusses various types of hearing loss, including conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, sudden sensorineural hearing loss, unilateral hearing loss, and bilateral hearing loss. It also explains the causes associated with each type of hearing impairment. Finally, it provides information on the degree of hearing loss and advises when it might be necessary to visit an ENT or consider using hearing aids.
Hearing Loss Type
Hearing loss cannot be classified based on just one criterion. The classification of hearing impairment varies, including the affected area of the ear, whether the hearing loss occurs in one ear only or both ears, among other factors.
Conductive vs Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Depending on the specific area of the ear where the problem occurs, hearing loss is first divided into conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss.
Conductive Hearing Loss:
This type of hearing loss occurs when there are problems in the outer or middle ear, hindering the transmission of sound waves to the inner ear. Common causes include ear infections, earwax blockage, or issues with the ear canal, eardrum, or middle ear bones (ossicles). Conductive hearing loss can often be medically or surgically treated.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss: Sensorineural hearing loss results from damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or the auditory nerve pathways in the brain. It is usually permanent and can be caused by aging, exposure to loud noises, genetics, head trauma, certain medications, or diseases affecting the inner ear (such as Meniere's disease). Sensorineural hearing loss is typically managed with hearing aids or cochlear implants.
If you want to learn more about conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss, including specific causes and treatment options, please refer to the following article for detailed information.
Sudden Hearing Loss (Sudden Conductive vs Sudden Sensorineural)
Recently, many people have been curious about sudden hearing loss.
Common questions asked by individuals experiencing sudden hearing loss include,
"Why can't I hear out of one ear?" and "Why sudden muffled hearing in one ear?"
If you have asked these questions, pay attention to this text.
Sudden hearing loss is not a distinct type but falls under the subcategories of conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss.
In other words, it can be further classified as sudden conductive hearing loss and sudden sensorineural hearing loss. Sudden hearing loss refers to a rapid progression of hearing loss, and in some cases, a person's hearing can be completely impaired within a day.
Sudden Conductive Hearing Loss:
Sudden conductive hearing loss occurs suddenly due to issues in the process of sound transmission to the inner ear.
This type of hearing loss can occur when there are problems in the external ear or structures within the middle ear.
Tinnitus: A symptom where ringing or buzzing sounds are heard in the ear.
Ear Discharge: Discharge from the ear.
Otitis Media: An infection in the middle ear, commonly known as middle ear infection.
Sudden conductive hearing loss often arises when sound is not transmitted correctly to the inner ear. It can result from inflammation, infection, abnormalities in the ear structures, or other external factors.
Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss:
Sudden sensorineural hearing loss occurs suddenly and is primarily caused by issues related to the inner ear or auditory nerve. It can result from damage to the inner ear, problems with the auditory nerve, or other factors affecting the sensory nerve. This type of hearing loss often presents with symptoms such as hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
Sudden sensorineural hearing loss is commonly considered idiopathic, meaning there is no specific known cause. Swift diagnosis and treatment by a medical professional are essential. High-dose oral steroid treatment is often used to reduce inflammation and prevent the progression of hearing loss in these cases.
Unilateral Hearing Loss vs. Bilateral Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can occur in one ear or both ears, categorizing it into unilateral hearing loss and bilateral hearing loss.
Unilateral Hearing Loss:
Unilateral hearing loss refers to hearing impairment occurring in only one ear.
The other ear functions normally, but the ability to hear is partially or completely impaired in one ear.
This type of hearing loss can result from congenital issues, middle ear infections, noise exposure, ear injuries, or various medical conditions.
Individuals with unilateral hearing loss may be sensitive to sounds coming from one side and may have limited directional perception for surrounding sounds.
In cases of unilateral hearing loss, it often occurs due to physical damage or issues in the tissues of one ear, leading to hearing impairment.
Bilateral Hearing Loss:
Bilateral hearing loss refers to hearing impairment occurring in both ears simultaneously.
It indicates that the ability to hear is partially or completely impaired in both ears.
Bilateral hearing loss can result from congenital issues, genetic factors, age-related hearing loss, middle ear infections, exposure to loud noises, or various medical conditions.
People with bilateral hearing loss may find it difficult or impossible to hear sounds in both ears.
Hearing loss typically caused by aging is more likely to be bilateral hearing loss, affecting both ears.
What is the most common reason for hearing loss?
To explain the causes of hearing loss, it is helpful to utilize the classification system based on the affected part of the ear, namely conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss.
Among these, This article will introduce the most common causes of hearing loss.
What causes sensorineural hearing loss?
Excessive noise exposure
Viral infections (such as measles or mumps)
High fever or elevated body temperature
Ménière's disease (a disorder of the inner ear that can affect hearing and balance)
What causes conductive hearing loss?
Inflammation caused by a scratched ear canal from ear cleaning
Damage on eardrum
Ear canal inflammation due to otitis media
Foreign object in ear canal
Hearing loss Degree : When Should I See an ENT/ use Hearing Aids
Hearing loss is typically categorized into different degrees based on the severity of the impairment.
The degrees of hearing loss are commonly classified as follows:
- Normal Hearing (0-25 dB HL): A person can hear faint sounds and conversational speech in quiet environments. Hearing is considered within the normal range.
- Mild Hearing Loss (26-40 dB HL): Difficulty hearing faint or distant speech, especially in noisy situations.
- Moderate Hearing Loss (41-55 dB HL): Difficulty hearing normal speech and louder sounds. Conversations may be unclear, especially in noisy environments.
- Moderately Severe Hearing Loss (56-70 dB HL): Difficulty hearing most speech sounds. Conversations are challenging without amplification.
- Severe Hearing Loss (71-90 dB HL): Limited ability to hear speech without a hearing aid. Communication is primarily through amplified speech or sign language.
- Profound Hearing Loss (91+ dB HL): Very limited or no ability to hear speech even with amplification. Communication relies on sign language, lip-reading, or cochlear implants for some individuals.
From moderate hearing loss onwards, it is advisable to visit an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist for a hearing test and consider purchasing hearing aids from an audiologist.
Generally, sensorineural hearing loss cannot be improved to the level it was before. The best approach is to slow down the rate of deterioration and use assistive devices to maintain a comfortable daily life.
If you're hesitant about using hearing aids, there's also a great option available called a personal sound amplifier. Particularly for people experiencing moderate hearing loss, who may have difficulty distinguishing background noise from speech in everyday situations, a personal sound amplifier can reduce these discomforts.
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