Not all hearing loss is the same. Conductive and sensorineural hearing loss have different causes and treatments and can even sound different. Let’s take a closer look at each.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss is More Common
When most people talk about hearing loss, they are talking about sensorineural hearing loss. In fact, age-related sensorineural hearing loss (i.e., presbycusis) is the most common type in adults.
Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is caused by damage to either the hair cells of the inner ear (known as stereocilia) or to the auditory nerve itself. Unfortunately, because damage to either of these areas cannot be medically or surgically repaired, SNHL cannot be reversed. However, it can be treated with hearing aids or cochlear implants, which can greatly improve a person’s ability to hear.
In addition to aging, noise exposure is the other leading cause of SNHL. However, a number of possible causes and risk factors exists, including:
- Certain medications
- Autoimmune disorders like lupus
- Viral infection
- Traumatic brain injury
- Conditions that can affect blood flow, like heart disease or diabetes
Conductive Hearing Loss Can Often Be Reversed
Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound cannot reach the inner ear. This is usually due to an obstruction, trauma or deformity in the outer or middle ear. Because of this, some conductive hearing loss is temporary and can be reversed with treatment, depending on the cause.
Some of the more common causes of conductive hearing loss include:
- Earwax impaction
- Ear infection
- Ear canal deformities
- Foreign objects getting stuck in the ear
- Ruptured eardrum
- Abnormal growths or tumors in the middle ear
Issues like earwax buildup, ear infections and certain abnormal growths in your ear can often be treated with medications or surgery, and these treatments should restore your hearing to normal. However, other abnormalities like stenosis (narrowing) of the ear canal are harder to treat medically and may become permanent. These cases will be treated with hearing aids or bone-anchored implantable devices.
What About Mixed Hearing Loss?
As the name suggests, mixed hearing loss is when you have a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. This can happen when the ear sustains trauma or when someone with one type of hearing loss gradually develops another. For example, someone with long-standing conductive hearing loss may also develop sensorineural hearing loss as they age.
Seek Treatment For Hearing Changes
Regardless of what type of hearing loss you have, it’s important to seek treatment. If you notice that you have to turn the TV up louder than normal or that voices seem muffled while at work or out to dinner at La Choza Restaurant or another Santa Fe eatery, call the experts at Southwestern Hearing & Balance and schedule an appointment for a hearing test.