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Types of Deafness: Everything You Need to Know About Hearing Loss

Types of Deafness: Everything You Need to Know About Hearing Loss

Most people rely on sound in basically everything they do. In the morning, you rely on the sound of your alarm clock to wake you up. The ding of the microwave signals that your breakfast is ready to eat. You rely on music to take away some of the monotony as you commute to school or work. The mere act of communicating with other people involves talking and listening to each other. Needless to say, for people who are deaf or who suffer from hearing loss, these experiences just aren’t the same. Learn more about the types of deafness here and how it is addressed.

What is Deafness?

Deafness is defined as having partial or total hearing loss. According to the World Health Organization, 466 million people or 5% of the world’s population suffer from disabling hearing loss.

A person with normal hearing should have a hearing threshold of 25 decibels or higher in both ears. Someone with hearing loss is anyone who has a lower hearing threshold. Hearing loss can affect only one or both ears and can range from mild to profound loss of hearing.

People who are “hard of hearing” are those people with mild to severe hearing loss. But these cases can still be assisted by hearing aids or transplants. People who are considered “deaf” are those who can only hear very little or none at all. People who are deaf usually rely on sign language to communicate.

Hearing loss can range from:

  1. Mild: If you suffer from mild hearing loss then you will be able to hear some conversational sound but may have difficulty hearing soft sounds like whispers.
  2. Moderate: If you suffer from moderate hearing loss, you will only be able to hear very little from a person talking at normal volume.
  3. Severe: If you suffer from severe hearing loss then you’ll only be able to hear a few loud noises.
  4. Profound: If you suffer from profound hearing loss will only be able to hear very loud sounds.

Types of Deafness

Hearing loss or deafness can be caused by a variety of factors. Common types of deafness or hearing loss includes:

  1. Conductive Hearing Loss: This type of loss of hearing is characterized by sounds not being able to reach the fine bones within the ear. Conductive hearing loss can usually be reversed through medication or surgery.
  2. Sensorineural Hearing Loss: Sensorineural hearing loss is a type of hearing loss that is often permanent and can only be remedied by the use of hearing aids. It frequently results from damage to the parts within the ear.
  3. Mixed Hearing Loss: If a person suffers from mixed hearing loss, they are suffering from both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss brought about by damage to the outer, middle, and inner ear.
  4. Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: When a person has Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder (ANSD), sound that travels into the ear canal isn’t recognized by the brain.

Causes of Hearing Loss

There are many possible causes to the different types of deafness, namely:

  • Earwax: Over time, a gradual build-up of earwax in the ear canal and block the sound waves from reaching the inside parts of the ear.
  • Inner ear damage: Nerves in the cochlea which are responsible for transmitting sound for processing by the brain may become damaged due to loud noises or become worn out because of age. This can cause partial or total hearing loss.
  • Tympanic membrane perforation: This is also known as a ruptured eardrum. Eardrums can become ruptured by loud noises, pressure, and even infections.
  • Abnormal growths: Tumors can form in the external or middle ear, which can have effects on how your ear receives sounds.

Symptoms of Hearing Loss

Gradual hearing loss can happen slowly which is why some people don’t immediately notice that they’re starting to become hard of hearing. Here are the signs and symptoms to look out for:

  • Not being able to understand or hear what someone else is saying.
  • Starting to listen to music or watch TV at a volume much louder than you’re used to.
  • Noticing that some sounds become muffled.
  • Having to pay more attention to what people say in order to understand them.

Some babies are born with hearing loss so make sure to watch out for these symptoms in your baby:

  • Unresponsive to loud noises
  • Not babbling or saying words like “mama” or “dada” by the time they reach 12 months
  • Doesn’t respond to their name
  • Doesn’t hear all types of sounds

Hearing Loss Treatment

Hearing loss caused by a build-up of earwax can easily be treated by removing the mass. If hearing loss is caused by abnormalities or deformities, your doctor may suggest surgical procedures to help you regain your hearing. Other options for treatment are hearing aids or cochlear implants that are usually recommended for those with moderate to profound hearing loss.

Prevention of Hearing Loss

There are a few things you can do to prevent hearing loss that’s acquired from damage to the eardrum or to prevent age-related hearing loss from worsening, namely:

  • If you frequently listen to music while wearing earphones, try to lower the volume.
  • Use protective gear for your ears when doing recreational activities.
  • If the nature of your work requires you to be in noisy environments, wear earplugs as necessary or have your hearing checked by a professional regularly.

Key Takeaways

Deafness is defined as having an impaired sense of hearing, or a total loss of hearing that prevents you from doing things like verbally communicating with other people. Causes of hearing loss or deafness can vary. Luckily, treatment is available for all types of hearing loss. If you suspect that you have problems with your hearing, consult a medical professional as soon as possible.

Learn more about Ear Conditions here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Deafness, https://healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Deafness, Accessed March 16, 2021

Deafness and Hearing Loss, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/deafness-and-hearing-loss, Accessed March 16, 2021

Types of Hearing Loss, https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/hearingloss/types.html, Accessed March 16, 2021

Conductive Hearing Loss, https://www.asha.org/public/hearing/Conductive-Hearing-Loss/, Accessed March 16, 2021

Sensorineural Hearing Loss, https://www.asha.org/public/hearing/Sensorineural-Hearing-Loss/, Accessed March 16, 2021

Mixed Hearing Loss, https://www.hear-it.org/mixed-hearing-loss, Accessed March 16, 2021

ANSD, https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/ansd.html, Accessed March 16, 2021

Causes of Hearing Loss, https://www.hearinglink.org/your-hearing/causes-hearing-loss/, Accessed March 16, 2021

Hearing Loss and Your Baby, https://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/hearing-loss-and-your-baby.aspx, Accessed March 16, 2021

Hearing Loss, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hearing-loss/symptoms-causes/syc-20373072, Accessed March 16, 2021

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Written by Tracey Romero Updated Mar 16
Medically reviewed by Diana Rose G. Tolentino, M.D.
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