Of the five senses, hearing is one of the most powerful in humans. We rarely realize how often we rely on our ability to listen to our surroundings. Unfortunately, loss of hearing has become a common health concern among Western nations.
Losing your hearing can cause a significant decrease in your quality of life. Unless you already know how to speak sign language, it could even make communicating with your family difficult. Consequently, preventing damage to your ear is of utmost concern.
Modern technology allows us to treat many types of hearing loss. However, some remain as permanent conditions.
The Four Types of Hearing Loss
Generally speaking, healthcare practitioners divide hearing loss into four different categories. These categories are defined by which segment of your ear is malfunctioning. Depending on where the issue is occurring, treatment options will vary.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive refers to the method by which sound travels through your bones. Typically, this type occurs when you have damage to either the outer or middle ear. It’s possible to treat using a variety of modern medical devices. Success levels vary, but many patients successfully restore their hearing.
- 1. Damage to the Outer Ear
- 2. Damage to the Middle Ear
- 3. Earwax and Infections
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
This type is caused by damage to part of your nervous system. It could be in your peripheral nervous system, most likely the cochlea. On the other hand, there are several places within your brain where the damage could also be located. This is induced by environmental hazards relatively often as well.
- 1. Damage to the Cochlea
- 2. Nerve Damage
- 3. Exposure to Sudden Loud Noises
Mixed Hearing Loss
This type is simply a mixture of the other types. Therefore, it shares the same causes and treatment options as them.
- 1. Genetic Causes
- 2. Natural Aging
- 3. Accidents, Diseases, and Loud Noises
Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder
This category describes conditions where hearing isn’t necessarily impaired to any significant degree. Whereas the other conditions all feature damage to the ear, it can be fine with this condition. However, there is some disorder that makes the brain unable to process the sounds meaningfully.
- 1. Brain Damage
- 2. Seizures
- 3. Genetic
Degress of Severity
The disorder also varies in the degree to which it impairs individuals. Thus, we may also describe it by its level of intensity. Generally, we use four different levels to organize hearing loss.
If you are suffering from mild hearing loss, you are likely still able to hold a conversation. You may have trouble understanding exactly what words they are using at times. Yet, the condition fails to significantly impact your ability to use sound in everyday life.
When the condition becomes more impactful, it transitions into moderate hearing loss. Depending on the person, holding a conversation may become more trouble than it is worth. Everyday activities are more difficult because of the condition.
A severe loss means that it is difficult for you to understand sound unless it is incredibly loud.
Profound hearing loss is only one step away from complete deafness. At this point, any ability to meaningfully interact with the world is affected detrimentally.
Other Classifications Used to Categorize Loss of Hearing
When you talk about loss of hearing, it is possible to use several other classification methods. Each of these tells us a little bit more information about the nature of an individual’s hearing loss. Hearing is a complex sense, and damage can occur along any part of your auditory pathway.
Does it Affect One or Both Ears?
You can describe the condition by referring to the number of ears with the damage.
- Unilateral damage means that only one ear has any hearing loss.
- When both ears have damage, you call it bilateral damage.
Did it Occur Before or After Language Acquisition
How old was the person when they first lost the ability to hear? We can categorize this condition depending on when it first appeared.
- If the condition first appeared before the person learned how to speak, we call it pre-lingual.
- Post lingual refers to the condition when it appears after a person first learns to speak.
Is the Degree of Loss Equivalent in Both Ears?
When you cannot hear, it matters a whole lot which ears are affected. Not all cases of this condition affect both ears equally. Sometimes, people do not have it in one at all.
- If the condition affects both ears equivalently, it is called symettrical.
- Asymetrical is the word use to mean both ears are equivalent.
Acute vs. Progressive
How long has the condition been affecting you? Has the condition gradually gotten worse, or did it appear suddenly?
- Acute loss of hearing is when a person experiences sudden onset of the condition.
- Progressive loss of hearing starts imprecetibly and increases in severity as time goes on.
Is the Severity Stable Across Time?
Does the condition affect you to the same degree at all times? When do you notice it is the worst?
- Fluctuating loss of hearing describes a condition that improves and worsens over time.
- Stable refers to the condition when the severity does not change.
Were You Born Without It or Did it Develop Later in Life?
Were you able to hear when you were first born? Or, did you acquire the condition later in life?
- Cogenital hearing loss means that you had the condition at birth.
- Acquired refers to hearing loss that did not appear until a much later age.
- Delayed-Onset means you could hear when you were born, but shortly after you lost the ability to.
Preventing or Treating Loss of Hearing
If you are suffering from this condition, it quickly permeates every nook and cranny of your life. Most of the time, we take our ability to hear for granted. Thankfully, modern technology provides relief for many of the people who suffer from this condition.
On the other hand, preventing the condition is still the preferred technique. Considering most hearing loss is caused by loud noises, preventing it is much more effective.
Noise-Related Loss of Hearing Is Preventable
Did you know that in the modern world, most hearing loss is the result of listening to loud noises? That means it is easily avoidable. By changing a few habits, you can still enjoy all of your favorite music without damaging your hearing. Remember to bring earplugs when you go to events that have loudspeakers.
Modern Hearing Devices Produce Powerful Results in Many Patients
If your ears are already damaged, do not despair. Several technologies could help you restore your sense of hearing. If you are interested in listening to the radio while talking to your friends, this is great news. Unfortunately, not all hearing loss is treatable.
The following technologies represent the widest range of devices available in the modern world. Not all devices will be available in all areas.
Bone Conduction Devices:
Much of your hearing is accomplished by bone conduction. Sound vibrates the bones of your outer and middle ears. This stimulates hair follicles in the inner ear. Bone conduction devices let you bypass damage in the ear canal and stimulate the hair follicles directly.
Bone Anchored Devices:
These devices are similar to bone conduction devices. Instead of stimulation the hair follicles of the inner ear, they vibrate the bones of your middle ear. It can effectively treat several types of hearing loss.
These contraptions are surgically inserted into the bones of your middle ear. Sounds stimulate the microphone on the implant. Then, it transmits those sounds as electronic data to the cochlea. Once the data hits the cochlea, you perceive it as sound.
These implants are useful for people suffering from sensorineural hearing loss. It can even be used to treat some forms of congenital hearing loss, allowing deaf newborns to hear for the first time. You put them directly onto the cochlea. They then pick up sounds using a microphone. Finally, they convert it into an electronic signal that stimulates your auditory nerves.
Traditional Hearing Aids:
Compared to newer generations of technology, traditional types of hearing aids seem rather simplistic. The biggest benefit is that you can remove them whenever you want. They simply use a microphone to listen to your surroundings. Then, they amplify the sounds, so they become audible to the wearer.