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Types, Causes and Treatment of Hearing Loss

ear diagram

Hearing loss can develop at any age and can be caused by many different factors. But did you know that only five percent of hearing loss in adults can be improved medically or surgically? The vast majority of Americans with hearing loss (95 percent) are treated with hearing aids.

While hearing loss is unique to the individual, it can be categorized into three different types of loss depending on which part of the ear is affected:


Sensorineural: 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. Sound and speech may be unclear or muffled even when the volume is loud enough to hear. Most of the time, SNHL cannot be corrected medically or surgically. This permanent type of hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids.

Possible causes: 

  • Illness

  • Ototoxic drugs

  • Genetic or hereditary hearing loss

  • Aging

  • Head trauma

  • Malformation of the inner ear

  • Exposure to loud noise


Conductive: Conductive hearing loss is typically the result of obstructions in the outer or middle ear. Sound does not properly conduct through the outer ear to the middle ear. Those experiencing conductive hearing loss may sense a reduction in sound level or the ability to hear faint sounds. Possible treatment options include surgery, medicine and hearing aids.

Possible causes: 

  • Fluid in the middle ear

  • Ear infection

  • Allergies

  • Poor Eustachian tube function

  • Perforated eardrum

  • Benign tumors

  • Impacted earwax

  • Infection in the ear canal

  • Swimmer’s ear

  • Presence of a foreign body

  • Malformation of the outer ear, ear canal or middle ear.


Mixed: A combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. Possible treatment options include surgery, medicine and hearing aids.

If you think you may be experiencing hearing loss, take our online hearing test simulator or visit a hearing professional in your area for a comprehensive hearing evaluation.

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Causes, effects and how to manage tinnitus/ringing in the ears. Useful subtitled videos and support organisations.

Causes of balance problems and disorders associated with hearing loss. Advice on testing, managing and coping.

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