Basic Types of Hearing Loss

3 Basic Types of Hearing Loss

In our last article, we covered the signs and symptoms of hearing loss and the factors that can lead to diminished or loss of hearing. Hearing loss is characterized by which part of the auditory system is damaged, and there are two basic types, conductive hearing loss, and sensorineural or perceptive hearing loss. In addition, a combination of both conditions can be seen, and this is categorized as having a mixed hearing loss. To help you better understand hearing loss and how it occurs, here are the three basic types of hearing loss, the causes, and symptoms.

1. Conductive hearing loss is caused by a problem in the outer or middle ear. This occurs when there is a problem (such as obstruction or damage) with the ear canal, the eardrum, or with the middle ear and its bones (the malleus, incus, and the stapes). The damage or obstruction prevents sound from being directed to the inner ear, and can be a temporary or permanent condition.

Common causes of conductive hearing loss:

• Abnormality of outer ear, ear canal, or middle ear structures
• Fluid build-up in the middle ear from having a cold
• Allergies
• Benign tumors
• Earwax that is impacted
• Poor Eustachian tube function
• Perforated eardrum
• Ear infection
• Ear injury
• Tympanosclerosis
• Ossicular chain discontinuity
• Swimmer’s ear
• Having an infection in the ear canal
• Having a foreign body stuck in the ear
• Otosclerosis


• Can hear out of one ear easier than the other
• Pressure sensation in one or both ears
• Smell emanating from ear
• Pain in one or both ears
• Hard time deciphering phone conversations
• Own voice sounds louder or different

2. Considered to be the most common type of hearing loss, perceptive or sensorineural hearing loss is caused by injury or problems with the inner ear. Sensorineural hearing loss, or SNHL, is also known as nerve-related hearing loss and occurs when there is damage to the auditory nerve or to the tiny hair-like cells within the inner ear.

Common causes of sensorineural hearing loss:

• Being exposed to loud noises
• Suffering from head trauma
• Virus or disease (measles, mumps, meningitis, and scarlet fever)
• Traumatic injuries
• Side effect of certain medications
• Having an autoimmune inner ear disease
• Hearing loss that runs in the family
• Aging process
• Tumors
• Deformity of the inner ear
• Meniere’s Disease
• Otosclerosis


• Noises seem louder or quieter
• Have a hard time listening in noisy environments
• Difficulty hearing women and children (high-pitched voice)
• Certain speech sounds become harder to hear
• Difficulty deciphering a conversation when more than one person is speaking
• Other people often sound like they are mumbling or slurring their words
• Tinnitus
• Dizziness or feeling off balanced

3. Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both conditions, conductive and sensorineural. This often means that there is trauma or damage to the outer or middle ear, as well as to the cochlea (inner ear) or auditory nerve. This condition can also happen gradually over time as the person ages, and its causes will be a combination of the reasons and symptoms that are listed above for perceptive and conductive hearing loss.

Remember, treatment options for these conditions will vary from person to person. It is best to make an appointment with your doctor to help determine what type of hearing loss you are suffering from, so they can determine the best course of action for both you and your ears.

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