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What Causes Hearing Loss?
Part of understanding your own hearing loss – and finding solutions that are right for you and your lifestyle – is knowing the facts about what causes hearing loss. But just like the many ways that individuals experience a loss of hearing, there are numerous causes behind how and why it happens.
But despite the sheer number of causes for loss of hearing, most fall within four distinct categories: central auditory processing disorders, conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss. By understanding the common factors in these categories, you’re one step closer to understanding the many causes of hearing loss and what solutions are right for you.
Central Auditory Processing Disorders
Although it’s easy to believe that hearing loss is simply a physical issue that relates directly to the ear, hearing is a much more complex process than most think. In reality, the ear is only one part of the equation – when it comes to perceiving sound, the brain is just as important as the ear.
When we hear, sounds are perceived by the ear, which then translates those sounds as electrical signals and passes that information to the brain. Sometimes, that process between the ear and the brain is interrupted, and the brain is not able to correctly “understand” those signals. Categorized as central auditory processing disorders, these types of hearing loss lead to a person not able to distinguish between or perceive certain sounds, and may require more advanced medical solutions to correct the problem.
Conductive Hearing Loss
At almost direct contrast to central auditory processing disorders, conductive hearing loss comes from issues not within the brain, but within the ear itself. When we hear, external sounds must pass through our ear canal to reach tiny nerves before they can be converted to signals our brain can understand. When someone is suffering from conductive hearing loss, there is something blocking sound from traveling along that canal.
Conductive hearing loss can be attributed to any number of things, including fluids in the middle ear, infections and tumors, deformations of the bones in the ear or anything else that might block this pathway. Luckily, since conductive hearing loss is often connected with a physical thing blocking the ear canal, they can often be fixed with medical procedures to remove the obstruction, but not all conductive hearing loss can be fully reversed.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Similar to central auditory processing disorders, sensorineural hearing loss comes from a problem during the transformation of sound into electrical information. Unlike central auditory processing disorders, though, sensorineural hearing loss is connected with a physical part of the ear, called the cochlea, which is in charge of this transformation. This part of the ear can suffer certain kinds of damage, which affect its ability to correctly transfer information to the brain and leads to a loss of hearing.
Sensorineural hearing loss is one of the most common forms of hearing loss, since it is connected to biological factors like aging as well as prolonged exposure to loud noise, genetics and disease. Unlike conductive hearing loss, this damage is generally irreversible, and is treated instead with devices like hearing aids that counteract the damage. Thankfully, hearing science has made enormous strides in sensorineural hearing loss, and hearing aids are exceptionally effective with this kind of hearing loss.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Very often, those that suffer from hearing loss will have multiple factors that contribute to it. Mixed hearing loss refers to this combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Mixed hearing loss could be a combination of age-related hearing loss with impacted earwax, for example.
Most hearing professionals will deal with the conductive hearing loss first before focusing on sensorineural factors – your hearing professional might remove the impacted earwax before considering hearing aids to counteract the cochlea damage from aging, for instance. Consequently, mixed hearing loss often requires multiple forms of treatment, with hearing aids being one of them.
The hearing specialists at Lifestyle Hearing Solutions in Tucson have the expertise to determine the type of hearing loss you may be experiencing through a detailed hearing test and evaluation. To schedule your free hearing test, or for any questions, please contact: