by: Dr. Alexis Heffner
Ours ears can be complicated! They are made up of not one, not two, but three areas- the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. There are different types of hearing loss that occur based on which part or parts of the ear are experiencing a problem. Let’s learn a little about them.
A conductive hearing loss occurs when the outer and middle ear are affected. There are many causes of this type of hearing loss, such as a fluid buildup in the middle ear due to having a cold or allergies, ear infections, holes in the eardrum, earwax, or objects stuck in the ear, amongst many others. Luckily, many outer and middle ear conditions can completely resolve, sometimes on their own and sometimes with intervention by an audiologist or ear, nose and throat physician.
A sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) occurs when the inner ear is affected and is typically irreversible. This type of loss happens due to damage to the hair cells in the inner ear, as well as issues with the nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain. Some of the causes of SNHL include viruses, drugs that are toxic to hearing, family history of hearing loss, aging, and loud noise exposure, amongst others.
Lastly, a mixed hearing loss occurs when a conductive hearing loss and SNHL exist at the same time, affecting the outer or middle ear in conjunction with the inner or nerve pathway leading to the brain. Any combination of factors can cause a mixed hearing loss. For example, if someone has fluid in their middle ear, along with damage to the hair cells over time due to aging, a mixed hearing loss can result.
We told you that ears have a lot going on! Remember to protect them. If you have any questions, we are HEAR to answer them!