Types of Hearing Loss

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



Conductive hearing loss results in a loss of loudness; sounds are just not loud enough to be well heard. Conductive hearing loss results from an abnormality of the outer or middle ear. This type of hearing loss can be permanent or temporary depending on the cause of the hearing loss. If there is fluid in the middle ear, the loss is temporary if given prompt medical attention. Other causes can be remedied by medical or surgical techniques or by amplifying sound with hearing aids. Some causes of conductive hearing loss are otitis media, wax impaction, perforated eardrum, and cholesteatoma.



A sensorineural hearing loss means there is a problem in the inner ear. Sensorineural hearing loss in young children can be caused by certain infections before birth, from genetic factors, or from a lack of oxygen during birth. There is typically no medical or surgical treatment to correct for sensorineural hearing loss, but hearing aids can help in most cases.

Sensorineural hearing loss can cause not only a loss of loudness, but also clarity of speech. Sometimes, sensorineural hearing loss is incorrectly referred to as “nerve deafness”. It is not completely possible to correct the lack of clarity that may be associated with a sensorineural hearing loss by amplifying sounds. It is important to be aware of the difference between a conductive and sensorineural loss. This is the reason why some people with hearing loss seem to benefit more from hearing aids than others. When it is determined that hearing aids provide little to no clarity for someone with sensorineural hearing loss, a cochlear implant can be considered.



Mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss. Chronic ear infection can result in a defective eardrum or middle ear cavity, and often in addition to the conductive hearing loss, the individual may have a sensorineural hearing impairment. The optimal treatment for this type of hearing loss requires consideration of all of the factors involved and must be individualized for the patient. The option of hearing aids versus reconstruction of the middle ear hearing mechanism is considered on a case-by-case basis.