What Are The Different Types Of Hearing Loss?

What Are the Different Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a common health concern that affects millions of people worldwide. It can have a profound impact on a person’s quality of life, affecting their ability to communicate and causing emotional distress. While most of us are familiar with the generic term “hearing loss,” it’s important to recognize that there are actually different types of hearing impairment, each with its own set of causes and implications.

In this blog post, we’re going to dissect the three primary categories of hearing loss—Conductive, Sensorineural, and Mixed Hearing Loss—to provide you with an understanding of each, shedding light on how they can occur and what you can do if faced with them.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss involves a physical barrier that hinders the transmission of sound to the inner ear. It affects the conductive (outer and middle) parts of the ear, which are responsible for funneling sound to the sensorineural structures within. This type of loss can be temporary or persistent, depending on the cause and the course of treatment. Here’s a closer look at this form of hearing impairment.

Defining The Issue

Conductive hearing loss arises from complications or malfunctions in the external and middle ear. This results in the sound not being transferred properly to the inner ear, which hampers their ability to send sound information to the brain.

The Culprits Of Conduction Failure

Various issues can contribute to conductive hearing loss. Some of the most common causes include:

Earwax Blockage: When earwax builds up and becomes impacted, it can muffle sounds by blocking the ear canal.

Middle Ear Infections: Fluid accumulation in the middle ear associated with infections can disrupt the proper conduction of sound, as well as cause pain and pressure.

Eardrum Rupture: If the membrane that separates the outer and middle ear has a tear in it, it can alter how sound is transmitted and lead to hearing problems.

Structural Ear Anomalies: Birth defects or other physical irregularities within the ear’s structure may interfere with sound conduction.

Otosclerosis: This condition involves abnormal bone growth in the middle ear, typically in the stapes bones, which can restrict their movement.

Seeking Solutions

Treatment for conductive hearing loss often involves medical or surgical intervention to address the underlying cause. This may include earwax removal, antibiotic treatments for infections, or corrective surgeries to repair or bypass structural issues in the ear.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss, often referred to as “nerve deafness,” involves the inner ear (cochlea) or the auditory nerve. This type of loss is usually permanent and is the most common form of hearing loss.

A Diminished Connection

The inner ear is a complex system of fluid-filled canals and tiny hair cells. When sound waves reach the inner ear, the fluid movement triggers the hair cells to bend. This bending produces electrical signals that are sent to the brain via the auditory nerve for interpretation.

When there’s damage to these hair cells or the auditory nerve, the transmission of these signals is impeded, leading to sensorineural hearing loss. Common causes include:

Aging (Presbycusis): Over time, the cumulative effects of noise, disease, and other factors can lead to deterioration of the inner ear structures.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss: Exposure to loud or sustained noise can damage delicate hair cells, leading to a loss of hearing sensitivity.

Ototoxic Drugs: Certain medications can have harmful side effects on the structures of the inner ear, causing hearing issues.

Trauma: Severe head injury or exposure to explosive sounds can cause direct damage to the cochlea or the auditory nerve.

Permanent Implications

Sensorineural hearing loss is typically permanent and cannot be reversed or corrected with medical or surgical treatments. However, hearing aids or cochlear implants can often significantly improve the ability to hear and understand speech.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss occurs when a person has both conductive and sensorineural hearing issues. This means there is a problem in the outer or middle ear and the inner ear simultaneously.

The Dual Dilemmas

This type of loss can be a result of a variety of combined causes. For example, someone might already have sensorineural hearing loss and then develop a conductive issue through a middle ear infection or trauma. Alternatively, an individual with conductive hearing loss may have an underlying issue that gradually leads to sensorineural symptoms as well.


Mixed hearing loss is complex; treatment will depend on the specific diagnoses. Some instances will require a combined approach, addressing both conductive and sensorineural aspects. For example, a person with a conductive issue might benefit from a hearing aid while also undergoing a surgical procedure to correct a structural problem in the middle ear.

Understanding the nuances of hearing impairment is crucial for early detection and effective intervention. Anyone experiencing hearing challenges should seek professional assessment and avoid the habit of self-diagnosis or delaying professional help. The sooner the issue is addressed, the better the chance for optimal treatment outcomes.

If you or someone you know is concerned about hearing loss, it’s important to make an appointment with a qualified audiologist who can provide expert assessment and guidance. Total Hearing Centre offers comprehensive hearing evaluations and individualized treatment plans to help each patient achieve the best possible hearing health. Contact us today to schedule your consultation. Our team is dedicated to helping you hear better and improve your overall quality of life.