As we know the human ear is made up of many different parts and it is very obvious that if any parts stop working then it can create a big problem. There are generally four areas assigned in which parts of the ear fit neatly the outer ear, the middle ear, the inner ear, and the central auditory pathway.
Sound waves enter through the outer earthen goes to the middle ear, and then to the inner ear. After that, the sound travels to the brain through the auditory path or nerve. If there is any interference at any point on their way to the brain, the result is hearing loss. There are different types of hearing loss, depending on where the sound waves are interrupted, and why. We can say, each type of hearing loss relates to specific parts of the ear.
Basically, there are two main types of hearing loss
- Sensorineural hearing loss
- Conductive hearing loss.
When this two hearing loss occurs at the same time, this is called mixed hearing loss.
What is a Sensorineural Hearing Loss
The Sensorineural hearing loss is a kind of hearing loss, in which the main problem lies in the inner ear or sensory organ or the vestibulocochlear nerve while Conductive hearing loss occurs when there is a defect in the outer ear, tympanic membrane (eardrum), or middle ear.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
It is also known as a nerve-related hearing loss. As per its name, sensorineural hearing loss refers to hearing loss that is the result of nerve damage. It occurs in the inner ear, or anywhere along the nerve pathways that connect the inner ear to the brain. We can say, it may occur when the outer and middle ear is functioning properly, but some sounds aren’t being interpreted properly and may not be reaching the brain at all.
If one is above the age of 55 and having trouble hearing soft or faint sounds, especially in noisy crowds, the hearing loss is most likely sensorineural.
Causes of Sensorineural Hearing loss
- Aging:- Age is a factor for this hearing loss. This kind of hearing loss can be seen in older people.
- Side effects of the medication:- Higher doses of medicine like High BP, heart failure, diabetes, and cancer etc, are more likely to result in damaging the sensory cells of the cochlea in the inner ear.
- Loud noises:- Loud noises on regular exposure creates damage to inner ear structure.
- Head trauma:- Mild as well as severe head trauma can cause inner ear fluid area rupture or leakage, which can be septic to the inner ear.
- Genetics:- Some people also affected by this hearing loss because of their genes.
- Otosclerosis:- A small bone in the middle ear grows unusually which become unfitted to vibrate freely resulting problem in hearing.
- Meniere’s Disease:- This disease builds up to abnormal fluid in the inner ear which causes sensorineural hearing loss.
An Option like diagnosis and treatment options like medication, surgery, or hearing aids can be considered depending on the underlying cause.
What is a Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss affects the outer ear. It happens when sound is not traveling efficiently from the outside environment through to the outer or middle ear.
The problem can occur anywhere in the outer ear, the ear canal or the middle ear.
The conductive hearing loss is not permanent, it is temporary. In many cases, something is physically blocking the ear canal, which prevents us from hearing well.
These are usually mild, moderate or treatable and ranging conductive hearing loss from 25-65 decibels. Medication and surgery are done in some cases based on the cause of the problem.
As there are many causes of blocking the ear canal and thus sound signals are not able to reach the nerve center where they have to be processed. Due to this problem, we lose our hearing.
Cause of conductive hearing loss:
- Ear infections and head colds
- Ear wax and other fluid buildups
- Presence of a foreign objects
- Perforated eardrum
Mixed conductive and sensorineural hearing loss
This type of hearing loss occurs when both the sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss combinedly occur.
In this case both the outer and middle ear damage at the same time. In this case outer and middle ear ability to conduct sound into the inner ear and the brain and damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or auditory nerve.
Causes of Mixed Hearing Loss
There are some causes of mixed hearing loss which are the cause of sensorineural hearing loss also.
The causes are
- Genetic cause.
- Head trauma.
- Malformation of the inner ear.
It also includes the causes of conductive hearing loss and they are
- Earwax (cerumen).
- Fluids in the middle ear.
- Ear infections.
- Perforated eardrums.
- Malformation of the outer or middle ear.
Treatment of Mixed Hearing Loss
As it is a mix up of both sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss so the treatment is also a combination of both. It can be corrected with medical or surgical treatment if it is a conductive hearing loss. But, if it is sensorineural hearing loss then it will usually be treated with hearing aids. Sometimes implants or special types of hearing aids are needed for the treatment of mixed hearing loss.