Hearing loss affects both young and old and can occur for a variety of reasons. Most of us are familiar with the natural decline of hearing that comes with age, but many are born without hearing or lose their hearing because of trauma or illnesses that affect the transmission of sound to the brain. There are essentially two types of hearing loss: Conductive and Sensorineural. Conductive hearing loss occurs when something is physically obstructing the transmission of sound to the brain for interpretation. Sensorineural hearing loss refers to the inability of the nerves to relay sound to the brain. Although not common, it is possible to have a mix of both conductive or sensorineural hearing loss.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves are prevented from reaching the inner ear. Ear wax impaction, infection, fluid, bony abnormality or the presence of a foreign body in the ear canal are all common causes of conductive hearing loss. Frequently, hearing caused by conductive hearing loss can be restored by medical or surgical interventions.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when sound is not transmitted to the brain due to problems in the inner ear or the nerves that carry the sound impulses to the brain. Often the hair cells within the cochlea, a bony structure of the inner ear, are damaged and cannot facilitate the transmission of the sound waves. Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss. Although it can be a result of aging, exposure to loud noise, certain drugs, disease or an inherited condition can also cause sensorineural hearing loss. Unfortunately, sensorineural hearing loss is not usually treatable with medical therapies or surgical intervention. However, many people with sensorineural hearing loss lead full and happy lives with the help hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Most cases of hearing loss will be primarily conductive or sensorineural, however, occasionally individuals with have a combination of both. Often those with sensorineural hearing loss will develop conditions that produce conductive hearing loss such as infection or ear wax impaction. Of the two types, however, sensorineural more often causes long-term hearing loss compared to the more treatable conductive hearing loss.
As you can imagine, a thorough ear exam and hearing testing by a trained medical professional is critical for determining what type of hearing loss is present and what type of intervention is appropriate. Treatment may involve ear canal irrigation for ear wax or foreign body removal, medication to treat swelling or infection, surgery to remove structural obstructions, or hearing aids and cochlear implants to aid in the transmission of sound waves to the brain. Whatever the cause, you can rest assure that Dr. Bailey and his staff will be more than happy to evaluate and meet your hearing needs.