Types of Hearing Loss

hearing
Hearing impairment can happen gradually over time, so that a person may not realize the extent of their impairment until it is significant. Catch it at an early stage.

Hearing impairment is an extremely common chronic condition that currently affects 1 in 10 Americans, and 1 in 3 over the age of 65. Hearing impairment can be experienced as difficulty following conversations, having to ask people to repeat themselves, thinking people mumble a lot more than they used to, or becoming tired from having to struggle to hear. Untreated hearing impairment can have a negative impact on quality of life, potentially affecting employment, education, and relationships. Hearing impairment can happen gradually over time, so that a person may not realize the extent of their impairment until it is significant.

Types of hearing Impairment

The two main types of hearing impairment are sensorineural and conductive hearing impairment. Mixed impairment has components of both sensorineural and conductive hearing impairment.

Sensorineural Hearing Impairment is by far the most common type of hearing impairment.  It is a type of impairment where the sound is effectively transmitted through the outer and middle ear, but there is damage to the inner ear or auditory nerves. One example of a cause of sensorineural hearing impairment is inner ear hair cell damage, which can occur as a result of the normal aging process or noise exposure. Currently, the most common treatment for sensorineural impairment is amplification of sound through air conduction hearing aids.

Conductive Hearing Impairment is a type of hearing impairment where sounds are not effectively transmitted through the outer and middle ear to the inner ear. An example of this is otosclerosis of the middle ear bones, or a temporary conductive impairment associated with an ear infection. Conductive impairment can often be treated with medicine or surgery.

Magnitude of Impairment

Hearing impairment is classified as mild, moderate, severe or profound. Hearing impairment can also vary with frequency, for example a person could have mild low-frequency hearing impairment and moderate high frequency hearing impairment. The individual profile of a person’s hearing impairment interacts with sounds, and can make certain sounds more or less hard to hear.

A person with a flat moderate impairment may have difficulty hearing all parts of speech. A person with a typical age-induced high frequency hearing impairment may be able to hear low-frequency vowels clearly (like the ‘o’ in ‘hot’), but will have difficulty discerning high-frequency consonant sounds, (like the difference between ‘t’ and ‘s’). Missing the consonant sounds can greatly impede the individual’s ability to understand words and follow a conversation, especially when trying to carry on a conversation in the presence of background noise.

Treatment with Amplification

Most types of hearing impairment can be treated with amplification using assistive hearing devices. Amplification works by turning up the volume of certain sounds so that they are above the impaired person’s hearing threshold.

This article was written by © EarLens®Corporation. earl lens