Like any well-established vocation, audiologists and other hearing healthcare professionals have categorized the phenomenon they study and treat. This includes the origins of hearing loss.
For example, hearing loss is broken down into four primary types:
- Auditory Processing Disorder — This is the situation when the physical performance of the ears is fine, but there are issues with the brain’s ability to process the electrical signals it receives. It is an issue of understanding, not function. Sounds are actually “heard,” only they aren’t the same as what everyone else is hearing. Children are more likely to develop this condition — it can be categorized as a learning disorder since it is an information-processing issue and affects nearly 5 percent of kids — and therefore early intervention is key.
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss — A condition when the input from the ears and brain is degraded, usually due to problems with the auditory nerve or Cochlea. This can be due to injury or genetics. Most hearing aids are a treatment for sensorineural hearing issues.
- Conductive Hearing Loss — Basically the simplest of hearing loss triggers, caused by interference of some kind in the physical functioning of the ear. It can be as serious as a punctured eardrum or as modest as too much ear wax. Luckily such issues are usually treatable — and temporary in nature.
- Mixed Hearing Loss — Not surprisingly, a combination of any of the above issues, usually some combination of conductive and sensorineural. Figuring out the underlying problems at play and the subsequent proper treatment can be tricky.
Audiologists and support staff have all been trained to recognize these four types of hearing loss and can advise you — or someone you love — on what may be done about them.