Not all hearing loss is the same. Let’s explore the differences between conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, including causes and potential treatment options.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) occurs when there is damage to the hair cells of the inner ear or, less commonly, the auditory nerve. Once damage occurs, it cannot be repaired, which is why sensorineural hearing loss is a permanent condition.
Age-related sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss in adults. However, other things can cause SNHL including:
- Prolonged exposure to noise louder than 85 decibels
- Taking certain medications
- Viral illnesses
- Autoimmune conditions
- Medical conditions that affect blood flow, like heart disease and diabetes
- Genetic conditions
While SNHL cannot be cured, treatment options like hearing aids and cochlear implants can make it easier to process and understand speech and other sounds.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss differs from sensorineural hearing loss in several ways. It is caused when sound waves are prevented from reaching the inner ear due to an obstruction, injury or deformity in the outer or middle ear. It can be caused by multiple things, including, but not limited to:
- Earwax impaction
- Ear infection
- Ear canal deformities
- Foreign objects getting stuck in the ear
- Ruptured eardrum
- Abnormal growths or tumors in the middle ear
Unlike SNHL, conductive hearing loss can be reversed in some cases by removing the blockage or repairing the damage. In other cases, such as a narrowing of the ear canal or certain other deformities, medical intervention is more difficult or not possible. In that case, conductive hearing loss is permanent and treated with hearing aids or bone-anchored implantable devices.
What About Mixed Hearing Loss?
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. It can happen for many reasons. For example, when a person with long-standing conductive hearing loss also starts to experience age-related hearing loss or someone with SNHL develops conductive hearing loss from an ear infection.
If you have mixed hearing loss, a combination of medical treatment as well as the use of hearing aids or other assistive listening devices will likely be used.
Seek Help For Hearing Issues
If you are experiencing signs of hearing loss, whether at work or when out with friends at Wade’s Restaurant, schedule an appointment with an audiologist. They will examine your ears and perform a hearing test to determine what is causing your symptoms and find the best treatment for you.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact Spartanburg | Greer ENT & Allergy today.