How Many Different Types of Hearing Loss are There?

Shot of a senior man drinking coffee and looking thoughtfully out of a window wondering about hearing loss.

Have you ever seen a t-shirt promoted as “one size fits all” but when you went to try it on, you were disheartened to find that it didn’t fit at all? That’s really frustrating. The truth is that there’s almost nothing in the world that is truly a “one size fits all”. That’s not only true with clothing, it’s also true with medical conditions like hearing loss. This can be true for numerous reasons.

So what are the most common kinds of hearing loss and what are their causes? Well, that’s precisely what we intend to explore.

There are different forms of hearing loss

Because hearing is such a complex mental and physical operation, no two people’s hearing loss will be exactly the same. Perhaps you hear just fine at the office, but not in a noisy restaurant. Or, maybe certain frequencies of sound get lost. There are a wide variety of forms that your hearing loss can take.

The root cause of your hearing loss will determine how it manifests. Because your ear is a fairly complex little organ, there are lots of things that can go wrong.

How your hearing works

It’s useful to get an idea of how hearing is supposed to work before we can determine what degree of hearing loss requires a hearing aid. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Outer ear: This is the portion of the ear that you can see. It’s the initial sound receiver. Sounds are efficiently guided into your middle ear for further processing by the shape of your outer ear.
  • Middle ear: The eardrum and a few tiny bones are what your middle ear is composed of (Yes, there are some tiny little bones in there).
  • Inner ear: Your stereocilia are found hear. These fragile hairs detect vibrations and start converting those vibrations into electrical signals. Your cochlea helps here, too. This electrical energy is then sent to your brain.
  • Auditory nerve: This nerve is located in your ear, and it’s responsible for transmitting and directing this electrical energy to your brain.
  • Auditory system: From your brain to your outer ear, the “auditory system” encompasses all of the elements discussed above. It’s important to understand that all of these components are continually working together and in concert with one another. Typically, in other words, the whole system will be impacted if any one part has issues.

Hearing loss types

Because there are numerous parts of your auditory system, there are (as a result) numerous forms of hearing loss. The root cause of your hearing loss will determine which kind of hearing loss you experience.

The prevalent types of hearing loss include:

  • Conductive hearing loss: This form of hearing loss occurs because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, frequently in the middle or outer ear. Normally, fluid or inflammation is the cause of this blockage (when you have an ear infection, for instance, this usually happens). A growth in the ear can occasionally cause conductive hearing loss. Normally, with conductive hearing loss, your hearing will return to normal once the blockage has been removed.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss: When your ears are damaged by loud sound, the tiny hair cells which pick up sound, called stereocilia, are destroyed. Normally, this is a chronic, progressive and permanent type of hearing loss. As a result, individuals are normally encouraged to prevent this type of hearing loss by using hearing protection. Even though sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, it can be successfully treated with hearing aids.
  • Mixed hearing loss: It occasionally happens that a person will experience both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss simultaneously. Because the hearing loss is coming from numerous different places, this can sometimes be difficult to treat.
  • Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: It’s relatively rare for somebody to develop ANSD. It takes place when the cochlea doesn’t properly transmit sounds from your ear to your brain. ANSD can normally be treated with a device called a cochlear implant.

Each type of hearing loss calls for a different treatment method, but the desired results are usually the same: to improve or maintain your ability to hear.

Variations on hearing loss kinds

And that’s not all! Any of these normal kinds of hearing loss can be categorized further (and more specifically). For instance, hearing loss can also be classified as:

  • Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: This means you’re either going through hearing loss in just one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
  • High frequency vs. low frequency: You may have more trouble hearing high or low-frequency sounds. Your hearing loss can then be classified as one or the other.
  • Symmetrical or asymmetrical: If your hearing loss is the same in both ears it’s symmetrical and if it isn’t the same in both ears it’s asymmetrical.
  • Progressive or sudden: Hearing loss that gradually worsens over time is called “progressive”. Hearing loss that erupts or presents instantly is known as “sudden”.
  • Fluctuating or stable: If your hearing loss has a tendency to come and go, it may be referred to as fluctuating. If your hearing loss remains at around the same levels, it’s called stable.
  • Acquired hearing loss: Hearing loss that develops as a consequence of outside causes (such as damage).
  • Congenital hearing loss: Hearing loss you were born with.
  • Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to talk, it’s called pre-lingual. Hearing loss is post-lingual when it develops after you learned to talk. This will affect the way hearing loss is managed.

That may seem like a lot, and it is. But your hearing loss will be more successfully treated when we’re able to use these categories.

A hearing test is in order

So how can you tell which of these classifications pertains to your hearing loss situation? Unfortunately, hearing loss isn’t really something you can accurately diagnose by yourself. As an example, is your cochlea working properly, how would you know?

But you can get a hearing test to determine exactly what’s going on. Your loss of hearing is kind of like a “check engine” light. We can hook you up to a wide variety of machines, and help identify what type of hearing loss you’re dealing with.

So give us a call as soon as you can and make an appointment to figure out what’s happening.


The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.