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Types of Hearing Loss

Conductive Hearing Loss (CHL)

CHL occurs when sound is not transmitted properly through the outer ear, middle ear, or both. It is generally a mild to moderate impairment, because sound can still be detected by the inner ear. Conductive hearing losses are often treatable with medicine or surgery. Generally, with pure conductive hearing loss, the quality of hearing (speech discrimination) is good, as long as the sound is amplified loud enough to be easily heard.

Examples of conditions that may cause a conductive hearing loss include:

  • Absence or malformation of the outer ear, ear canal, or middle ear .
  • Impacted earwax (cerumen), presence of a foreign body.
  • Infection in the ear canal (external otitis).
  • Conditions associated with middle ear pathology such as fluid in the middle ear from colds, allergies, eustachian tube dysfunction, ear infection (otitis media), perforated
  • eardrum, benign tumors.

Sensory Hearing Loss

Decrease of the inner ear sensitivity as a result of inner ear damage, the great majority of sensory hearing loss is caused by abnormalities in the hair cells in the cochlea. The hair cells may be abnormal at birth, or damaged during the lifetime of an individual. There are both external causes of damage, like noise trauma and infection, birth injury, drugs that are toxic to the auditory system, and intrinsic abnormalities, like deafness genes and genetic syndromes. Sensory hearing loss is usually not medically or surgically treatable. Most people with a sensory hearing loss find that hearing aids are beneficial.

Neural Hearing Loss

Neural hearing loss occurs when the hearing nerve or the auditory nervous system is not functioning well.The inner ear generates neural impulses that travel through the hearing nerve to the brain. Aging as well as neural diseases such as auditory neuropathy can cause degeneration of the hearing nerves; therefore, hearing aids may or may not help and another unconventional management is needed. Another cause is a tumor, such as vestibular schwannoma, that presses on the hearing nerve.

Central Hearing Loss

If only the auditory centers of the brain are affected central hearing loss is suspected, sounds may be heard at normal thresholds, but the quality of the sound perceived is so poor or meaningless that speech can not be understood.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Sometimes a conductive and sensorineural hearing loss blend together, in other words, there may be an abnormality or dysfunction in the outer or middle ear and in the inner ear (cochlea) or auditory nerve. When this occurs, the hearing loss is referred to as a mixed hearing loss.

Unilateral Hearing Loss (UHL)

UHL means that there is a hearing loss in one ear only. Children with UHL are at higher risk for having academic, speech/language and social/emotional difficulties than their normal hearing peers. Some children experience these difficulties but others do not.

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