Hearing loss is not a one-size-fits-all condition. Different types of hearing loss require unique treatments and lifestyle adjustments.

There are three basic types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural and mixed. 

Conductive hearing impairments affect the outer or middle ear; sensorineural conditions affect the inner ear; mixed hearing losses affect both the inner and outer or middle ear.

A Closer Look at the Types of Hearing Loss

  • Conductive hearing loss
    • Results from problems with the ear canal, eardrum or ossicles
    • Causes include structural deformities, fluid buildups, impacted earwax, ear infections, allergies, foreign objects in the ear, abnormal bone growth (otosclerosis) and acoustic neuromas
    • Relatively uncommon
    • Usually causes mild to moderate impairments
    • Typically temporary but sometimes permanent
    • Often treated with medication or surgery
  • Sensorineural hearing loss
    • Results from problems with the cochlea and its hair cells
    • Causes include aging, injury, noise-related damage, autoimmune disorders, viral infections, ototoxic medications, otosclerosis, diseases, malformations and acoustic neuromas
    • Most common type; causes 9 in 10 hearing impairments
    • Can cause mild, moderate, severe and profound impairments
    • Usually permanent
    • Treated with hearing aids or cochlear implants
  • Mixed hearing loss
    • Results from problems with ear canal, eardrum or ossicles in tandem with cochlear issues
    • Possible causes include all those listed above for conductive and sensorineural hearing impairments
    • Rarest type of hearing loss
    • Can cause mild to profound hearing loss
    • Usually permanent
    • Treated with medication, surgery or hearing aids

Other Hearing Loss Factors

While all hearing loss is categorized into one of the three groups above, there are also other ways to describe types of hearing loss you may have. These include:

  • Frequency: Hearing loss often affects your ability to hear sounds of a certain frequency or pitch. High-frequency hearing loss means you struggle to hear high-pitched sounds like children’s voices or birds chirping. Low-frequency hearing loss affects your ability to hear low-pitched sounds like tubas or mumbled speech. The frequency of your hearing loss is measured in hertz, we usually test at eight levels of frequencies during a hearing assessment.
  • Severity: The severity of your hearing loss assesses the loudness or intensity of the impairment. Hearing loss is usually evaluated using seven levels of severity from mild to profound. The severity of your hearing loss is measured in decibels. Severity can vary between ears and change depending on the frequency of a sound.
  • Laterality: Hearing loss is categorized as unilateral or bilateral. Unilateral hearing loss only affects one ear, is often conductive and causes problems with sound localization. Bilateral hearing loss affects both ears and is much more commonly diagnosed at our Southaven clinic.