It may surprise you to learn that there are actually different types of hearing loss. Let’s examine the differences between conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, including the potential causes and treatment options for each.
Sensorineural and Conductive Hearing Loss Have Different Causes
While both impact your ability to hear, sensorineural and conductive hearing loss have completely different causes.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is caused by damage to either the hair cells of the inner ear known as stereocilia or to the auditory nerve itself. Unfortunately, damage to either of these areas cannot be medically or surgically repaired, which is why SNHL is a form of permanent hearing loss.
SNHL has many causes, with age-related sensorineural hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, being the most common type in adults.
In addition to aging, sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by:
- Exposure to loud noise
- A side effect of some medications
- Autoimmune disorders
- Certain infections like mumps
- Traumatic brain injury
- Certain conditions that can affect blood flow, like heart disease or diabetes
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss is caused when sound waves are prevented from reaching the inner ear. This can be due to an obstruction, injury or deformity in the outer or middle ear. It may be caused by multiple factors, including, but not limited to:
- Earwax impaction
- Ear infection
- Ear canal deformities
- Foreign objects getting stuck in the ear
- Ruptured eardrum
- Abnormal growths or tumors in the middle ear
Unlike SNHL, conductive hearing loss is often reversible. However, in some instances, it is permanent.
Because sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, treatment options are focused on providing the best hearing possible, typically with the use of hearing aids. In more severe or profound cases, cochlear implants may be recommended.
Treatment options for conductive hearing loss depend on what is causing the obstruction. For example, an ear infection can be treated with antibiotics or, if chronic, ear tubes. Other times, surgery to remove or repair what is blocking sound can restore hearing back to normal.
In cases where conductive hearing loss is permanent, it’s treated with hearing aids or bone-anchored implantable devices.
If you notice that you’re having trouble hearing, whether at work or when out to dinner with friends at Tito and Pep, make an appointment for a hearing test. These exams are quick, painless, and can identify both the cause and severity of your hearing loss. From there, you and your audiologist will work together to find the right treatment for you.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact Arizona Hearing Specialists today.