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Types of hearing loss

Hearing loss can result from any number of events at any point in our lives. It generally means there has been some damage to the outer, middle or inner ear or in the nerve pathway to our brains.

Which types of hearing loss?

Hearing loss can be present from birth or develop over time as a result of an illness, accident, exposure to certain drugs and chemicals, or more commonly, as part of the normal aging process or exposure to loud noise.

In general, there are three types of hearing loss. They are conductive, sensorineural or a mixed hearing loss (a combination of both).

This type of hearing loss occurs when the delicate sensory cells or nerve fibres in the inner ear get damaged stopping them from transmitting sound properly. Causes include Ototoxic drugs (drugs with side effects that affect hearing), Meningitis and Meniere’s disease, however the most common causes are the natural process of ageing or excessive exposure to noise. In most cases, this condition is permanent.

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This is caused by problems in the outer and middle ear, which can prevent sounds getting through to the inner ear. The most common causes can be a build up of wax in the ear canal, perforated ear drum, fluid in the middle ear, or damaged middle ear bones.

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  • Congenital hearing loss

    When did it
    occur?

    Congenital hearing loss is present at birth and is caused by genetic factors, maternal health problems or birth injuries

    Acquired hearing loss begins after birth

  • Noise-induced hearing loss

    Is it a temporary condition?

    A medical condition such as a blockage of ear wax can cause hearing loss

    Noise-induced hearing loss can result from exposure to very loud noise. This is also called temporary threshold shift

  • hearing disorders

    ​Which part of the ear?

    Conductive hearing loss usually comes from a disruption of the sound's path to the inner ear from the outer or middle ear

    Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the delicate nerve fibres of the inner ear become damaged

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Recognise the signs

The change to a quieter world happens so slowly that it often goes unnoticed. You might feel that life sounds just as loud as ever. Some sounds – like a lawnmower – remain audible while others, like birdsong, footsteps and most imporatantly clear speech become harder to hear.

More about signs of hearing loss

  • The most common causes of sensorineural hearing loss include:

  • Prolonged exposure to loud noise

  • Age related changes

  • Illnesses such as meningitis, measles, mumps and Menieres disease

  • Inherited factors

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Congenital hearing loss

Some people are born with hearing loss, which is caused either by genetic factors, during pregnancy, or during childbirth. People with congenital hearing loss suffer from a loss of functionality in the hearing organs, which may only become apparent later in life. Since it can affect a child’s development, it is very important to begin treating it quickly.

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Tinnitus is not a type of hearing loss, but many people who suffer tinnitus also have hearing loss without knowing it. Hearing aids and sound therapy can relieve some of the effects of this symptom.

More about tinnitus

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