Conductive vs sensorineural hearing loss

How do people hear?

Sound waves traverse multiple checkpoints before reaching our central auditory pathway where they can be processed. They must first enter our outer ear before passing through the middle ear and journeying onwards to the inner ear.

The process of these waves reaching the brain can be disrupted at any stage resulting in different types of hearing loss.

There are three types of hearing loss: conductive hearing losssensorineural hearing loss, and a mixture of the two. Individuals may also suffer from mixed hearing loss wherein these two forms of hearing loss occur in tandem.

Hearing loss can be a truly debilitating condition and affects 6% of the world's population. If you or a loved one suffers from hearing loss, being aware of the different types of hearing loss and the treatments available will allow you to follow the most beneficial course of action in conjunction with your health professional.

Conductive hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss is caused by problems with the outer or middle ear. Damage to the outer or middle ear can prevent sound waves from reaching the inner ear.

This damage may appear in the ear canal, eardrum, or in the small bones within the middle ear. Impairment of sound waves reaching the inner can be typically attributed to blockage caused by earwax build-up, infections, bone abnormalities and even foreign objects stuck in the ear.

Conductive hearing loss is generally treatable and your hearing loss professional may be able to improve this form of hearing loss by providing medication, surgical intervention and or even simply cleaning out the build up of earwax.

Sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss occurs following damage to the nerves of the inner and is the most common type of hearing problem.

It typically develops due to damage to the hair cells ('cilia') which help the inner ear carry sound signals to the brain. These specific hair cells do not regenerate.

Sensorineural hearing loss is generally non-treatable, but there are exceptions. For instance, those cases that develop as a result of one-time loud sound exposure and do not cause actual damage to the inner ear are reversible.

Mixed hearing loss

Some individuals may suffer from a combination of both forms of hearing loss. This would mean an individual who suffers from both conductive and a sensorineural hearing loss – an example of this could be someone with noise-induced hearing loss who also has a hole in their ear drum.

The great news for those suffering with conductive hearing loss is that it can be significantly improved once the underlying issue has been addressed. If someone was losing his hearing because of a build-up of earwax and the earwax is removed then that person's hearing will improve – this is very straightforward.

On the other hand, if the person is suffering with sensorineural hearing loss, most treatment options are designed to preserve their hearing. Most interventions are geared towards helping people live with the condition rather than improve/reverse it.

For those suffering with mixed hearing loss, the success of treatment in improving your symptoms could only be gauged on a case-by-case basis. However, those whose hearing loss primarily falls into the conductive hearing loss bracket, may find greater benefit with treatment than cases where sensorineural hearing loss is the primary contributor.

We offer consultations with a licensed hearing care professional to help you identify the form(s) of hearing loss you may be encountering. This will allow you to identify the correct treatment pathway, and if your hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids, different options will be discussed to fit your specific needs, lifestyle and budget.

With you on your journey to better hearing.

It's time to finally treat your hearing loss. Sign up for a free consultation with a licensed hearing care professional today to determine if you have hearing loss. It’s the start of your journey towards better hearing.

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