You might think that hearing loss only occurs late in life. It is true that over 5% of the world’s population – 360 million people – has disabling hearing loss (328 million adults and 32 million children). Hearing loss can occur at any age and for any number of reasons.
In general, there are three types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural or mixed (which is a combination of both).
Conductive hearing loss results from disorders in the outer or middle ear. Sounds are prevented from reaching the inner ear, so they sound faint and/or distorted. Common causes for conductive hearing loss may include wax build-up, infection or fluid in the middle ear, foreign objects in the ear canal, or a perforated eardrum. Generally, medical procedures or surgery will successfully treat conductive loss for complete or partial hearing improvement.
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when inner ear nerves are damaged and cannot properly transmit signals to the brain. With this type of loss, sounds do not seem clear. Because inner ear nerves and sensory cells naturally diminish over time, this is the most common type of hearing loss as people age. However, sensorineural hearing loss may also result from injury, exposure to loud noises, diabetes, ototoxic medications, heredity, and a variety of diseases. Sensorineural hearing loss is often successfully treated with hearing instruments.
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of a conductive and a sensorineural hearing loss. A hearing care professional can determine the best treatment, which may include hearing instruments.