Picture of the inside of an earWhen you’re facing a medical issue that affects your quality of life, it’s important to understand as much about your condition as possible. If you have hearing loss, knowing the different types and treatments can help you made informed decisions in conjunction with your hearing loss professional.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss is caused by problems with the outer or middle ear. These issues prevent sound waves from reaching the inner ear. Damage in this area might be in the ear canal, eardrum, or in the small bones in the middle ear, as a result of things like infections, bone abnormalities, foreign objects stuck in the ear, and blockage caused by earwax buildup. Children who have multiple ear infections or stick things in their ears are susceptible to conductive hearing loss.

In some cases, doctors can treat conductive hearing loss with surgery to correct the absence or problems with the ear canal, or to rebuild other parts of the ear that did not develop properly. Certain medications can treat conductive hearing loss that is caused by infections or a buildup of inner ear fluid. Your hearing loss professional can also help with cleaning earwax buildup and let you know what you can do to prevent the problem at home to avoid a reoccurrence.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

When the nerves that control hearing or the inner ear are damaged, it can lead to sensorineural hearing loss. This is the most common type of hearing problem, and it is usually due to damage to the hair cells, or cilia, that help the inner ear carry sound signals to the brain. These hair cells do not regenerate over time, so sensorineural hearing loss due to this particular issue is usually not treatable. The good news is that people with this type of hearing problem can turn to hearing aids as a means to improve their quality of life. Loud noises, trauma to the head, diseases, aging, and hearing loss that runs in families are the most common causes of this type of hearing problem.

Some types of sensorineural hearing loss are treatable, mainly if the injury is short-term and not due to actual inner ear damage. Doctors may use corticosteroids to treat hearing loss due to loud noises that cause swelling and inflammation, or for long-term treatment of autoimmune inner ear diseases that cause the body to misdirect its normal protection of the inner ear. When the damage is irreversible, and hearing aids don’t do enough to improve a patient’s hearing, a hearing loss professional may recommend cochlear implants that send sounds straight to the auditory nerve and bypass the problematic inner ear.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Some people have a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. This may happen, for example, if someone has age-related hearing loss, then suffers trauma to the eardrum or other outer or middle ear parts. If you have mixed hearing loss, your doctor can recommend which type is to be treated first in order to maximize your chances of success.