Hearing loss is something that affects countless people around the world—and not just the elderly. There are many causes of hearing loss, too many to list in one blog, but—we at Oklahoma Hearing Center thought we’d start by explaining the two main types of hearing loss, and then go more in depth with one of them.
The two main types of hearing loss: conductive hearing loss (where the problem lies in the middle ear–eardrum, Eustachian tube or the “hearing bones” known as the ossicles) and sensorineural hearing loss (where there is damage in the inner ear–the “cochlea” or hearing organ, the hearing nerve or to the nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain).
Sensorineural hearing loss is something that many suffer from, but is something that not enough people understand or know about. We at the Oklahoma Hearing Center decided that for Better Hearing Month (the month of May), we would share some information with the world about this type of hearing loss, as it is the most common type of permanent hearing loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) often reduces the ability to hear faint and even moderate sounds. Even when speech is loud enough to hear, it may still be unclear or sound muffled. Most of the time, SNHL cannot be medically or surgically corrected.
Possible causes of sensorineural hearing loss are: illnesses, hearing loss that runs in the family (genetic or hereditary), aging, head trauma, malformation of the inner ear and exposure to loud noise (this could include job, hobby and general environment). There are even some drugs that are toxic to hearing.
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when hair cells in the cochlea are missing or damaged. These hair cells are responsible for converting acoustic signals into precise electrical signals that the brain needs in order to interpret sound. When these hair cells are damaged, the result is hearing impairment.
Initially the hearing loss may be only mild to moderate in nature. In these cases, a conventional hearing aid or a middle ear implant capable of vibrating the moving structures of the inner ear may an option.
Some individuals have a hearing loss only in the high frequencies also referred to as “partial deafness” or “high frequency” hearing loss. In these cases, only the hair cells at the base of the cochlea are damaged. In the inner part of the cochlea, the “apex” the hair cells which are responsible for processing the low tones are still intact.
Hearing aids are typically the most appropriate option for treating high frequency hearing loss, but in more severe cases the individual may benefit from combined electric and acoustic stimulation or “EAS.” EAS was developed specifically for these individuals to maximize the use of their residual hearing. When the hair cells of the cochlea are completely absent or severely damaged, the person suffers from a severe to profound hearing loss in which case a cochlear implant, which replaces the damaged hearing organ, may be the best option.
You or someone you know may be suffering from sensorineural hearing loss. Call the Oklahoma Hearing Center to make an appointment if you think this may be the case. And, check out our website for more information.
Happy Better Hearing Month from Oklahoma Hearing Center!