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What is Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the U.S, and it can affect the quality of your life and relationships. About 48 million Americans have lost some hearing. With so many untreatable cases of hearing loss, prevention is the best way to keep hearing long-term. If you’ve already lost some hearing, there are ways to stay connected and communicate with friends and family.

Types of Hearing Loss

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound is not conducted efficiently through the outer ear canal to the middle ear. Conductive hearing loss usually involves a reduction in sound level, or the volume of sounds. This type of hearing loss can often be medically or surgically corrected.

Examples of conditions that may cause a conductive hearing loss include:

  • Absence or malformation of the outer or middle ear
  • Fluid in the middle ear from colds, allergies, poor eustachian tube function, ear infection (otitis media), perforated eardrum or benign tumors
  • Impacted earwax
  • Infection in the ear canal (external otitis)
  • Presence of a foreign body

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

A sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss addressed by the use of hearing aids. It involves not necessarily a reduction in the volume of sound, but a reduction in the ability to hear higher pitched sounds, including consonants in speech. It also affects speech understanding, specifically the ability to hear clearly.

Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or to the nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain. Typically, it cannot be medically or surgically corrected.

Possible causes of sensorineural hearing loss include:

  • Aging
  • Diseases
  • Drugs that are toxic to the auditory system
  • Genetic Syndromes
  • Head Trauma
  • Noise exposure
  • Problems at birth
  • Tumors
  • Viruses

The Degree of Hearing Loss

Sound levels are measured in decibels (dB). Decibels are like the degrees of a thermometer. As temperature increases so does the number of degrees. As the volume of sound increases so does the number of decibels.

The degree of hearing loss refers to the severity of the loss. The levels correspond to the patient’s thresholds or the softest intensity at which a sound is perceived.

  • Normal Hearing (0-15 dB)
  • Minimal Hearing Loss (16-24 dB)
  • Mild Hearing Loss (25-40 dB)
  • Moderate Hearing Loss (41-55 dB)
  • Moderately-Severe Hearing Loss (56-69 dB)
  • Severe Hearing Loss (70-89 dB)
  • Profound Hearing Loss (90+ dB)
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