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Hearing loss types

Hearing loss is something that can affect people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. There are different types of hearing loss that are characterized by the underlying cause. However, there are also different ways of categorizing it.
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Main Types of hearing loss

What are the Three Types of Hearing Loss?

The ear is made up of three parts: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The outer ear refers to the entrance of the ear canal up to the eardrum. The middle ear refers to the space between the eardrum and the cochlea, and the inner ear refers to the part of the ear that holds the hearing organ (a.k.a. cochlea) including the auditory nerve.

There are also generally considered to be three types of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive, and mixed.

 happens when important mechanisms in your inner ear become damaged.

Conductive happens when sound is blocked from passing through your outer and middle ear, so it can't get to your inner ear.

Mixed happens when you have a mix of both sensorineural and conductive symptoms.

Differentiating Sensorineural and Conductive Hearing Loss

Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

There are fundamental differences between sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. This includes the underlying causes, typical signs and symptoms, and potential treatment options.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

  • Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear, including the hair cells and auditory nerve.
  • Common symptoms include decreased sensitivity to sound. So you have to ask people to repeat what they just said and turn up the volume on TV and music players.
  • Typically permanent, that's why the main treatment option for sensorineural hearing loss is using hearing aids. They are able to amplify and process sound to make up for the loss of your inner ear's ability to do it.

Conductive Hearing Loss

  • Conductive hearing loss is due to blockages in your outer and middle ear, impeding sound from reaching your inner ear.
  • Symptoms usually involve decreased hearing, a feeling of fullness in your ears, as if they are plugged, pain, and a bloody or fluid discharge coming from your ear.
  • It can be permanent, but is often temporary. Treating the underlying health condition restores your hearing once the blockage clears. Treatments include medication for infections, surgery for blockage removal, and earwax removal.

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Other Hearing Disorders

Other Hearing Disorders and Classifications

Aside from the three types of hearing loss, there are other hearing disorders and ways of classifying your hearing.

Congenital Hearing Loss

Unilateral or Bilateral Hearing Loss


Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder

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Hearing loss can appear along with other health conditions. And while these may not directly cause hearing loss, studies have shown that symptoms such as reduced blood flow or medications used to treat primary diseases can negatively impact the auditory system.

Here are the most common comorbid (occurring at the same time) conditions:

  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Balance Problems
  • Dementia
  • Depression
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Conductive hearing loss is in the middle ear

Understanding conductive hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss is one of three types of hearing loss. When sound fails to reach the inner ear through the outer and middle ear, you’re dealing with conductive hearing loss. Find out what causes it, the symptoms, and more information on proper prevention and treatment.
Mixed hearing loss audiogram

Understanding mixed hearing loss

Mixed hearing loss  is one of three types of hearing loss. Damage to the outer, middle and inner ear simultaneously results in mixed hearing loss. Find out what causes it, the symptoms, and more information on proper prevention and treatment.
Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by inner ear problems but can be helped by wearing hearing aids

Sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss is one of three types of hearing loss. Learn more about what it is, what causes it, and how you can prevent and manage the symptoms.

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