Hearing problems are labeled in a number of ways. The exact part of the auditory pathway affected is what determines the categorization. The hearing loss may be sensorineural, conductive, central, functional or mixed. Some kinds of hearing loss are more easily treated than other types, and a hearing healthcare specialist can show you your choices after an initial evaluation.

Sensorineural hearing loss – This type of hearing loss is responsible for more than 90% of the instances in which a hearing aid is worn. It is the result of damage in the interior of the ear or to the acoustic nerve, which blocks sound signals from being transmitted to the brain. Also referred to as nerve deafness or retrocochlear hearing loss, the damage is for the most part permanent, although breakthroughs in technology have allowed some formerly untreatable cases to see some improvement.

The most typical factors that cause sensorineural hearing loss are aging, prolonged exposure to noise, problems with blood flow to the inner ear, fluid disturbance in the inner ear, drugs that cause injury to the ear, some diseases, genetics and issues with the auditory nerve.

Hearing aids are adequate for most people who have this type of hearing loss, but in more severe cases, a cochlear implant can help bring back hearing to those for whom a standard hearing aid is insufficient.

Conductive hearing loss – When sound waves are not adequately conducted to the inner ear through the parts of the outer and middle ear, conductive hearing loss arises. This is very widespread and can be caused by a buildup of ear wax, a buildup of moisture in the eustacian tube, which keeps the eardrum from moving properly, a middle ear infection, a perforated eardrum, disease of the tiny bones of the middle ear and other blockages in the ear canal.

The majority of instances of conductive hearing loss are reversible, presuming there isn’t any irreversible damage to the structures of the middle ear, and with treatment the issue usually clears up in a short amount of time. For some patients surgery can assist in correcting the problem or a hearing aid may be recommended.

Central hearing loss – This condition arises in situations where an issue in the CNS (central nervous system) blocks sound signals from being processed and interpreted by the brain. Affected individuals can ostensibly hear perfectly well, but cannot decode or decipher what is being said. Numerous cases involve a problem with the individual’s capacity to effectively filter competing sounds. For instance, the majority of us can have a conversation while there is traffic noise in the background, but people with this problem have a really hard time with this.

Functional hearing loss – A rare occurrence, this type of hearing loss is not physical. Functional hearing loss is due to an emotional or psychological condition in which the person’s physical ability to hear is found to be normal, but they are not able to hear.Mixed hearing loss – As suggested by the term, mixed hearing loss is a mixture of multiple types of hearing loss, in this case the combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Although there are a few other types of hearing loss, the combination of these two is most common.