Understanding Hearing Loss

Symptoms and causes of mild, severe, and profound hearing loss, who gets it, and what to do.

Understanding Hearing Loss

Symptoms and causes of mild, severe, and profound hearing loss, who gets it, and what to do.

Levels of Hearing Loss

There are two levels of hearing loss: mild-to-moderate and severe-to-profound. We hear sounds with tiny nerves called hair cells located in our inner ears. Our outer hair cells help us hear soft sounds, and our inner hair cells help us hear high- and low-pitched sounds.

People with mild-to-moderate hearing loss have lost some outer hair cells and have trouble understanding softer sounds, such as the voices of women and children. People with severe hearing loss have lost both inner and outer hair cells, making it harder to hear soft sounds as well as distinguish between high- and low-pitched sounds.

The 3 Types of Hearing Loss

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Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SHL)

SHL is typically the result of damage to the delicate hair cells of the cochlea, a fluid-filled organ in the inner ear that transmits sound information to the brain. When these hair cells, or the nerves they connect to, are damaged by exposure to loud noise, hearing is profoundly affected. The highest frequencies are the first to go, so dangerous noise exposure often results in permanent high-frequency hearing loss.

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Conductive Hearing Loss

This type of hearing loss usually results from an infection or blockage in the outer or middle ear. Inflammation of the middle ear (known as otitis media) causing fluid buildup is a common occurrence, along with swimmer’s ear and earwax blockages near the eardrum. Conductive hearing loss is nearly always reversible once the infection or blockage clears. Occasionally surgery and medication are required.

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Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss refers to a combination of SHL and a semi-permanent conductive hearing loss such as malfunctioning ossicles (tiny bones that conduct sound) or other physical abnormalities in the middle ear. Hearing may improve after the conductive portion of the hearing loss is resolved, but SHL is usually permanent.

What to Do if You Suspect a Hearing Loss

We know this decision can feel overwhelming. Contact Acoustic Hearing Aids, and talk to one of our hearing care professionals to get a free hearing evaluation.

Our hearing care practitioners will perform a comprehensive exam, assess your level of hearing loss, and discuss options for treatment.

Request an Appointment

Audiologist demonstrating hearing aids to a patient with hearing loss