It can be total or partial, gradual or sudden, temporary or permanent. It can affect one ear or both ears. Generally, the risk of suffering hearing loss increases with age.
There are three types of hearing loss. They are categorized by the part of the auditory system that is damaged:
- Conductive Hearing Loss – when sound is not conducted efficiently through what is known as the outer ear (ear canal to the eardrum) or the middle ear (the eardrum through the three tiny bones of the middle ear called the malleus, incus, and stapes). Conductive hearing loss usually involves a reduction in sound level or the inability to hear faint sounds. This type of hearing loss can usually be treated with medication or surgery.
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss – when there is damage to the inner ear (cochlea, stereocilia, and/or auditory nerve) or to the nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of permanent hearing loss and generally cannot be medically or surgically treated. If you have sensorineural hearing loss, even when speech is loud enough to hear, it may still sound muffled or unclear. Most of the time hearing aids are the solution to sensorineural hearing loss.
- Mixed Hearing Loss – when both Sensorineural and Conductive Hearing Loss are present, this is known as mixed hearing loss. With mixed hearing loss, an individual would have damage to both the outer and/or middle ear and the inner ear.