Types of Hearing Loss: the who, the what and the how.
Hearing loss is a common problem that affects approximately 11 million people in the UK – that’s 1 in every 6 people.
What is hearing loss?
Hearing loss can develop for many reasons and can have many different symptoms, including;
- Difficulty hearing people or misunderstanding what has been said.
- Having difficulty hearing others in louder environments with lots of background noise.
- Having to turn up the TV and radio to be able to hear it clearly.
- Asking others to repeat themselves because you missed what they said.
Being aware of these symptoms could make it easier to identify whether you, or someone you know, has a hearing loss.
The symptoms and development of hearing loss can be sudden or gradual depending on the type and degree of loss. But what are the types of hearing loss that can develop?
The types of hearing loss to know about…
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
One of the most common types of hearing loss that occurs when the hair cells within the inner ear (the cochlea) become damaged. These hair cells are responsible for helping the passage of sound waves from the outer ear to the inner ear and on to the brain to be processed.
When the hair cells become damaged, it is more difficult for the sound waves that enter the ear to be passed to and then processed by the brain.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Occurring when sounds cannot pass freely through to the eardrum, conductive hearing loss can be experienced on its own or in conjunction with sensorineural hearing loss.
Common causes of conductive hearing loss include a build-up of ear wax, or an infection within the ear.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss
Noise induced hearing loss is caused by damage to the hair cells within the inner ear and the hearing organ (the cochlea). This damage is caused by exposure to excessively loud noises.
The hearing loss that can develop can be either temporary or permanent depending on the damage caused.
There are ways to protect your hearing from noise induced hearing loss. Using ear plugs, ear muffs and making sure any music played through headphones is kept to a safe level are all ways that you can protect your hearing.
Age Related Hearing Loss
Arguably the most common type of hearing loss, age related hearing loss is one of the most natural parts of the hearing process.
Over time, the hair cells within the ear die naturally, meaning they are unable to carry sound waves as well as they used to.
This type of loss is sensorineural.
Congenital Hearing Loss
Congenital hearing loss is present at birth. There is evidence to suggest that up to half of all the severe/profound cases of hearing loss are due to genetics.
Having congenital hearing loss treated as soon as possible is essential in helping a child develop language and communication skills without being affected by their hearing loss.
Unilateral Hearing Loss
Unilateral hearing loss refers to when the loss of hearing only occurs in one ear whilst the other ear remains at a normal level of hearing. This may mean that it is difficult to be involved in a conversation on one side.
Bilateral Hearing Loss
This refers to when a hearing loss is present in both ears and can be classed as sensorineural or conductive hearing loss depending on the cause of the loss.
It is common for this type of loss to occur over time as the level of hearing diminishes in both ears.
High Frequency Hearing Loss
The most common types of hearing losses tend to affect how well you can hear high frequencies.
Those who are affected by a high frequency hearing loss will find it more difficult to hear the consonants F, H and S and may find understanding speech difficult, particularly in louder environments.
Low Frequency Hearing Loss
This is often seen as the opposite of “conventional” hearing loss. Someone experiencing low frequency hearing loss may find they don’t have trouble hearing in their day-to-day lives.
However, when conversation moves into a nosier environment, being able to follow speech can become difficult.