Understanding the Different Types of Hearing Loss

Our sense of hearing is essential for making everyday communication and interaction easier. It is also easily affected by many factors. The loss of hearing can be concerning. In some cases, hearing loss is only minor and temporary. Other cases, however, can be more significant and may result in permanent hearing loss 

What is Hearing Loss? 

Hearing loss is commonly defined as a decrease in detecting external sounds. The underlying causes of hearing loss can vary and can be genetic, related to aging or illness, caused by exposure to loud noises or certain medicines, infectious causes, or result from head trauma.  

Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is generally categorized into three basic types, each with distinct causes and treatments. 


  • Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL) can be permanent and can occur when the inner ear is damaged. It can be caused by the natural aging process, long-term loud noise exposure, genetic/hereditary conditions, or medical conditions like neurologic diseases. Some treatment options are hearing aids, cochlear implants, or assistive listening devices. 


  • Conductive Hearing Loss happens when sound cannot efficiently travel through the outer ear canal to the eardrum and the middle ear. This type of hearing loss is often temporary and can be treated medically or surgically. Some causes are ear infections, ear fluid, earwax blockage, or eardrum perforation. Removal of earwax, treatment of infections, eardrum repair, or hearing aids are some treatment options for conductive hearing loss. 


  • Mixed Hearing Loss is a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss, indicating problems in both the inner and outer or middle ear. It arises from factors related to both types of hearing loss – such as an individual with age-related hearing loss who also has an ear infection. Symptoms can include a mix of those found in sensorineural and conductive hearing loss, where sounds may be both muffled and softer. Treatment involves addressing the conductive element with medical or surgical interventions. At the same time, the sensorineural aspect might be managed with hearing aids or cochlear implants.  

What are the Symptoms of Hearing Loss

Recognizing the symptoms of hearing loss is critical to early intervention and effective treatment. Hearing loss can present in various ways, and the signs may differ depending on the severity and type of hearing impairment. Common symptoms include:   


  • Ringing in the ear  
  • Favoring one ear  
  • Avoiding noisy places such as restaurants or events  
  • Noticing that sounds around you seem muffled  
  • Focusing on people’s mouths when they speak to you  
  • Frequently asking people to repeat themselves  


Children with hearing loss may show symptoms such as frequent lack of focus, speech delay, or difficulty with learning. In infants, hearing loss may present as a lack of startle response to loud noises or a lack of response to a familiar voice as expected.  

Why Understanding the Different Types of Hearing Loss Matters

Accurate diagnosis of the type of hearing loss is essential for effective treatment. Audiologists use various tests to determine the specific nature of hearing impairment. With a clear diagnosis, The ENT & Allergy Centers of Texas can help personalize your treatment plan and enhance your hearing and overall quality of life.  

 If you have any symptoms of hearing loss or an increased ringing or buzzing in the ears, request an appointment with our team today! 

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