Types and Causes of Hearing Loss
The Hearing Center at Lakeside Allergy ENT is home to the top audiologists in Texas who perform hearing evaluations, diagnose and treat hearing loss, and dispense hearing aids. Patients have access to our audiology services at all three of our Texas practice locations – Rockwall, Wylie and Forney TX. We offer a wide range of hearing loss treatments, including hearing aids, cochlear implants, and surgical procedures.
Book a hearing loss appointment today using the form on this page, or learn more about causes of hearing loss below.
What causes hearing loss?
There are various possible causes of hearing loss, which include:
- Aging (presbycusis)
- Long-term exposure to loud noises (i.e. construction, loud music, gun shots, etc.)
- One-time exposure to one explosive noise
- Ear infections
- Ruptured eardrum
- Damage to the inner ear
- Gradual buildup of earwax
- Abnormal bone growth or tumors in the ear or ears
- Birth defects
- Family history of hearing loss
- Medications that can harm the hearing system (ototoxic drugs)
- Diseases such as diabetes, heart, circulation, or thyroid problems
What are the different types of hearing loss?
There are three main types of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive, and mixed. Because each of these types of hearing loss is different and has different causes, there are a number of different hearing loss treatment options that may be recommended by our audiologists in Rockwall, Wylie and Forney.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL)
Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is the most common type of hearing loss and occurs when the inner ear nerves and hair cells are damaged and do not properly transmit auditory signals to the brain. This type of hearing loss results from inner ear or auditory nerve dysfunction.
Often, the cause cannot be determined, and the condition is typically irreversible and permanent. It reduces the intensity of sound, but it might also result in a lack of clarity even when sounds, particularly speech, are loud enough. Treatment for sensorineural hearing loss is most often amplification through hearing instruments.
Possible causes of sensorineural hearing loss include:
- Medications that damage the ear (ototoxic drugs)
- Genetic or hereditary hearing loss
- Aging (presbycusis)
- Head trauma
- Malformation of the inner ear
- Exposure to loud noise
- Virus or disease
- Autoimmune inner ear disease
- Meniere’s disease
- Central nervous system (CNS) disease
Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss depend upon the underlying cause and may include:
- SNHL that results from acoustic trauma (or exposure to excessively loud noise), may respond to corticosteroids to reduce cochlear hair cell swelling and inflammation.
- SNHL that occurs from head trauma or abrupt changes in air pressure, such as in airplane descent, sometimes responds to emergency surgery.
- SNHL caused by virus can often be medically treated with corticosteroids.
- SNHL caused by autoimmune inner ear disease (bilateral progressive) is managed with long-term corticosteroids and drug therapy.
- Meniere’s disease produces “fluctuating sensorineural hearing loss.” This may be treated with a low-sodium diet, diuretics, and corticosteroids. Various surgical procedures can also be used.
- SNHL from benign tumors generally is not reversed with surgical removal or radiation. If hearing loss is mild and tumors small, hearing may be saved by tumor removal.
- SNHL from nervous system disease may respond to treatment for primary disease (e.g. hearing loss secondary to multiple sclerosis (MS) may respond to treatment for MS).
- Irreversible SNHL, the most common form of hearing loss, may be managed with hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Conductive Hearing Loss (CHL)
Conductive hearing loss is caused by any condition or disease that blocks or impedes the conveyance of sound through the outer or middle ear. The result is a reduction in the sound intensity (loudness) that reaches the cochlea. Sometimes, the cause of conductive loss can be successfully treated with a complete or partial improvement in hearing.
Possible causes of conductive hearing loss include:
- Fluid in the middle ear
- Middle ear infections
- Poor eustachian tube function
- Perforated eardrum
- Benign tumors
- Impacted earwax
- Infection in the ear canal
- Swimmer’s ear (outer ear infections)
- Presence of a foreign body
- Malformation of the outer ear, ear canal, or middle ear
- Head trauma, such as a skull fracture
- Otosclerosis, an inherited disorder
- Congenital hearing loss
Treatments for conductive hearing loss depend on the underlying cause and may include:
- Bone conduction hearing aid or a conventional hearing aid may be used.
- An osseointegrated device (Baha or Ponto System) may be implanted.
- CHS caused by acute infections are usually treated with antibiotics or antifungal medications.
- Infectious middle ear fluid may also be treated with antibiotics.
- CHS caused by chronic ear infections, chronic middle fluid, and tumors usually require surgery.
- Chronic non-infectious middle ear fluid may also be treated with surgery or tubes.
- CHS from head trauma often requires surgical repair of the damaged middle ear structures.
- CHS caused by otosclerosis can be treated with surgery to replace the immobile bone (the stapes) with a mobile stapes prosthesis, or a hearing aid may be recommended. Otosclerosis may also cause SNHL.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. This means that there may be damage in the outer or middle ear and in the inner ear (cochlea) or auditory nerve.
Hearing instruments, such as hearing aids, can often be beneficial for persons with mixed hearing loss, depending on many factors. Medicine and surgery may also be viable treatment options.
If you or a loved one is experiencing any symptoms of hearing loss or would like to learn more about the types and causes of hearing loss and the audiology services offered at Lakeside Allergy ENT, call our office at 972-771-5443 or get started by requesting an appointment using the form on this page.