Your ability to hear is vital at whatever stage of life you are in. Hearing loss not only affects your ability to listen, but also casts your life into unfamiliar territory. You have a responsibility to keep your sense of hearing healthy and effective. Here are the six different types of hearing loss and their corresponding symptoms:
1. Conductive Hearing Loss
This type of hearing loss occurs when there is a blockage or damage in the outer or/and middle ear. When you have this type of hearing loss, sound waves are not adequately conducted through the ear canal to the eardrum. Your ears may also not pass sound from the eardrum to the inner ear through the ossicles of the middle ear.
The problem is the inability to conduct adequate sound. This loss is common in indigenous populations and children. It is caused by repeated ear infections, earwax, allergies, perforated eardrum, abnormal bone growth involving the ossicles, and the accumulation of fluid in the middle ear due to flu or cold.
Symptoms of conductive hearing loss may differ based on the affected part of the ear. A number of symptoms may present themselves simultaneously. These include the sensation of pain in one or both ears, a strange smell from the ear, a sensation of pressure in one or both ears, and difficulty hearing or speaking. You may feel like one ear is hearing better than the other.
2. Sensorineural Hearing Loss
This is the most common type of permanent hearing loss. Causes include ageing, exposure to loud noise, genetic disorders, head injuries, benign tumours, and Meniere’s disease. Assistive technologies can reduce sensorineural effects. To fully appreciate the symptoms and signs of sensorineural hearing loss, bear in mind the damage to nerve cells since hearing loss is a slow process.
You have to be very alert to detect the hearing loss symptoms, which include hearing impairment and feeling exceedingly tired at the end of the day. To establish whether you have sensorineural hearing loss or not, go for a hearing loss test.
3. Mixed Hearing Loss
This type of hearing loss is present where sensorineural and conductive losses occur. While the conductive aspect of loss could be permanent or temporary, the sensorineural component of hearing loss is permanent. Patients may experience different signs of this loss, but common symptoms could include a tendency to stare at people when you don’t hear what they are saying.
You also make frequent requests for repetition and clarification. Due to straining to hear better, you end up fatigued. You also tend to avoid social situations because of your inability to follow conversations in noisy environments. There is also a tendency to bluff even if you don’t hear for fear of asking people to repeat themselves. You may also be unable to hear clearly and fully.
4. Auditory Neuropathy
This hearing loss type is present where the auditory nerve has difficulty transmitting signals from the cochlea to the brain. The hearing loss varies from normal to acute as hearing levels fluctuate. Auditory neuropathy is caused by oxygen deprivation or jaundice, or other neurological complications.
There are modern assistive technologies that can reduce the effects of this type of hearing loss. Symptoms include auditory neuropathy, which manifests in difficulty understanding speech in noisy places, difficulty learning songs or the spoken word, difficulty concentrating, getting easily distracted, etc. It’s always safe to go for a hearing loss test to establish whether or not you have a hearing problem.
5. Neural Presbycusis
This type of hearing loss refers to the atrophy of nerve cells in the auditory and cochlea pathways to the brain that is lost every ten years at the rate of 2,100 out of 35,500 neurons. Loss of more than 50% of cochlear neurons is the threshold for neural presbycusis. It may be predetermined genetically and usually begins early in life.
However, until one’s old age, its effects are not noticeable. Symptoms include a severe decrease in speech discrimination ability, leading hearing loss.
6. Metabolic or Stria Presbycusis
Metabolic hearing loss comes from atrophy of stria vascularis, which supplies blood to the inner ear that maintains the bioelectric and chemical balance to the cochlea. Stria Vascularis atrophy leads to hearing loss and is characterized by a flat hearing curve. Sound frequencies are affected in equal measure since the entire cochlea is compromised. This is common in the last two or three decades of one’s life. It is accompanied by difficulty hearing low volume sounds.
Most types of hearing loss are not painful. People gradually lose their ability to hear without seeking medical attention, since they lack awareness of the possible signs of hearing loss. Understanding the symptoms and types of hearing loss equips you with the power to decide when to visit your clinic and to avoid behaviours and practices that could lead to loss of hearing.