Sound travels through the ear in three distinct phases. The brain interprets the sound waves as they travel through the ear.
There are four degrees of hearing loss:
Struggle to hear speech at a normal level.
Ability to hear parts of speech, but difficulty with softer sounds.
Inability to hear most speech at normal levels; ability to hear loud sounds.
Four types of hearing loss have been identified, and in most cases, each type is treatable.
Nerve-related (sensorineural) hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss. It is caused when tiny hair cells in the cochlea are damaged or degraded, and don’t effectively transmit sound impulses to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss often occurs in aging adults, but can also be caused by genetics, head trauma or exposure to loud noise. Past patients in this range of loss only had two choices: hearing aids or cochlear implants.
When the outer or middle ear malfunctions, restricting the production of sound this is known as conductive hearing loss. The most common solutions include bone anchored devices, surgically implanted osseointegrated devices or bone conduction surgery.
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. It’s caused by malfunctions in both the inner and the outer or middle ear. Audiologists typically recommend taking care of the conductive (above) component first. However, we recommend consulting with a hearing professional who can diagnose it before deciding on how to treat it.
Rarely, none of the other types of loss is the right diagnosis, such as: Missing or severed hearing nerve - Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder - where sound enters the ear normally, but damage to the inner ear or hearing nerve prevents sound from being organized in a way the brain can understand.