How Many Different Kinds of Hearing Loss are There?

Shot of a senior man drinking coffee and looking thoughtfully out of a window wondering about hearing loss.

Have you ever bought one of those “one size fits all” t-shirts only to be disappointed (and shocked) when the shirt doesn’t, in fact, fit as advertised? That’s truly aggravating. There aren’t actually very many “one size fits all” with anything in the real world. That’s true with t-shirts and it’s also relevant with medical conditions, like hearing loss. There can be many reasons why it occurs.

So what are the most prevalent types of hearing loss and what are their causes? Well, that’s precisely what we intend to find out.

There are different forms of hearing loss

Everyone’s hearing loss scenario will be as unique as they are. Perhaps you hear perfectly well at the office, but not in a crowded restaurant. Or, maybe certain frequencies of sound get lost. Your hearing loss can take a wide variety of shapes.

The root cause of your hearing loss will dictate how it manifests. Because your ear is a very complex little organ, there are any number of things that can go wrong.

How your hearing works

It’s useful to get an idea of how hearing is supposed to work before we can determine what degree of hearing loss requires a hearing aid. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Outer ear: This is the visible part of the ear. It’s the initial sound receiver. The shape of your ear helps direct those sounds into your middle ear (where they are further processed).
  • Middle ear: The eardrum and several tiny bones are what your middle ear is composed of (Yes, there are some tiny little bones in there).
  • Inner ear: Your stereocilia are found here. Vibration is picked up by these fragile hairs which are then converted into electrical energy. Your cochlea plays a part in this also. This electrical energy is then sent to your brain.
  • Auditory nerve: This nerve is inside of your ear, and it’s responsible for channeling and sending this electrical energy towards your brain.
  • Auditory system: All of the elements listed above, from your brain to your outer ear, are components of your “auditory system”. The complete hearing process depends on all of these components working in unison with one another. In other words, the system is interconnected, so any issue in one area will usually affect the performance of the whole system.

Hearing loss types

There are numerous types of hearing loss because there are numerous parts of the ear. The underlying cause of your hearing loss will determine which kind of hearing loss you experience.

The prevalent types of hearing loss include:

  • Conductive hearing loss: This type of hearing loss occurs because there’s a blockage somewhere in the auditory system, frequently in the middle or outer ear. typically, this blockage is due to fluid or inflammation (when you have an ear infection, for example, this usually happens). A growth in the ear can sometimes cause conductive hearing loss. Once the obstruction is removed, hearing will normally return to normal.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss: When your ears are damaged by loud noise, the delicate hair cells which pick up sound, called stereocilia, are destroyed. Normally, this is a chronic, progressive and irreversible form of hearing loss. Typically, people are encouraged to use hearing protection to prevent this type of hearing loss. If you have sensorineural hearing loss, it can still be managed by devices like hearing aids.
  • Mixed hearing loss: It’s also possible to have a combination of sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. Because the hearing loss is coming from numerous different places, this can sometimes be difficult to manage.
  • Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: ANSD is a fairly rare condition. It takes place when the cochlea doesn’t properly transmit sounds from your ear to your brain. A device known as a cochlear implant is usually used to treat this type of hearing loss.

Each form of hearing loss calls for a different treatment approach, but the desired results are usually the same: to improve or preserve your ability to hear.

Variations on hearing loss kinds

And there’s more. We can analyze and categorize these common types of hearing loss even more specifically. For example, hearing loss can also be classified as:

  • Congenital hearing loss: If you’re born with hearing loss it’s known as “congenital”.
  • High frequency vs. low frequency: You may have more difficulty hearing high or low-frequency sounds. Your hearing loss can then be classified as one or the other.
  • Progressive or sudden: Hearing loss that gradually worsens over time is called “progressive”. If your hearing loss happens all at once, it’s called “sudden”.
  • Symmetrical or asymmetrical: This tells you whether your hearing loss is equal in both ears or unequal in both ears.
  • Fluctuating or stable: Fluctuating hearing loss describes hearing loss that appears and disappears. If your hearing loss stays at roughly the same levels, it’s called stable.
  • Acquired hearing loss: Hearing loss that happens as a result of outside forces (such as damage).
  • Pre-lingual or post-lingual: If your hearing loss developed before you learned to speak, it’s known as pre-lingual. If your hearing loss developed after you learned to speak, it’s known as post-lingual. This will affect the way hearing loss is managed.
  • Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss: It’s possible to develop hearing loss in one ear (unilateral), or in both (bilateral).

If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. The point is that each classification helps us more accurately and effectively treat your symptoms.

Time to have a hearing test

So how can you tell what type, and which sub-type, of hearing loss you’re experiencing? Unfortunately, hearing loss isn’t really something you can accurately diagnose by yourself. As an example, is your cochlea working correctly, how would you know?

But that’s what hearing examinations are for! It’s like when you have a check engine light on in your car and you take it to a qualified auto technician. We can help you determine what type of hearing loss you’re dealing with by hooking you up to a wide variety of modern technology.

So call us as soon as you can and make an appointment to find out what’s going on.


The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

Questions? Talk To Us.