Hearing loss is categorized by the damaged area of the auditory system. There are three basic types of hearing loss: sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss and mixed hearing loss.

The most commonly diagnosed type of permanent hearing loss is sensorineural hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the tiny hair cells in the inner ear (cochlea), or to the auditory nerve pathways from the inner ear to the auditory cortex in the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss reduces the ability to hear faints sounds. Speech may sound unclear or muffled even when it is loud enough.

What causes sensorineural hearing loss?

Some possible causes for this type of hearing loss include: exposure to loud noises, illness, aging, use of ototoxic drugs, head trauma and genetics.

What are the symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss?

You will often have problems following conversation when two or more people are talking, especially when in noisy settings.  It may be easier to hear men’s voices than women’s voices because of the lower frequency of their voice. Often it is difficult to hear the high-pitched consonant sounds of speech (such as “s”, “f” or “th”).

The most common type of treatment for sensorineural hearing loss is the use of an amplification device, which can be hearing aids or/and assistive listening devices.

Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound is not conducted efficiently through the outer ear canal to the eardrum and the tiny bones (ossicles) of the middle ear. This type of hearing loss can often be corrected medically or surgically but can usually also benefit from hearing aid use.

A mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive loss (outer and middle ear) and sensorineural hearing loss (inner ear or nerve).