About Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can happen when any part of the ear or auditory (hearing) system is not working in the usual way.

There are four types of hearing loss:
  • Sensorineural: hearing loss that occurs when there is a problem in the inner ear or how the hearing nerve works.
  • Conductive: hearing loss caused by something that stops sounds from getting through the outer or middle ear. This type of hearing loss can often be treated with medicine or surgery.
  • Mixed: hearing loss that includes both a conductive and a sensorineural hearing loss.
  • Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: is a hearing disorder in which the inner ear successfully detects sound, but has a problem with sending sound from the ear to the brain.
The degree of hearing loss can range from mild to profound:
  • Mild Hearing Loss: A person with a mild hearing loss may hear some speech sounds but soft sounds are hard to hear.
  • Moderate Hearing Loss: A person with a moderate hearing loss may hear almost no speech when another person is talking at a normal level.
  • Severe Hearing Loss: A person with severe hearing loss will hear no speech when a person is talking at a normal level and only some loud sounds.
  • Profound Hearing Loss: A person with a profound hearing loss will not hear any speech and only very loud sounds.
Hearing loss can also be described as:
  • Unilateral or Bilateral: Hearing loss is in one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
  • Pre-lingual or Post-lingual: Hearing loss happened before a person learned to talk (pre-lingual) or after a person learned to talk (post-lingual)
  • Symmetrical or Asymmetrical: Hearing loss is the same in both ears (symmetrical) or is different in each ear (asymmetrical).
  • Progressive or Sudden: Hearing loss worsens over time (progressive) or happens quickly (sudden).
  • Fluctuating or Stable: Hearing loss gets either better or worse over time (fluctuating) or stays the same over time (stable).
  • Congenital or Acquired/Delayed Onset: Hearing loss is present at birth (congenital) or appears sometime later in life (acquired or delayed onset).
Possible Causes of hearing loss:
  • Genetics
  • Aging
  • noise exposure
  • Ototoxic medication
  • Illness or infections
  • Syndromes
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Chronic diseases

Content source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilties