Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can be either acquired or congenital…

Hearing loss is generally classed as sensori-neural, conductive or mixed. All hearing loss types can be either acquired (occur due to age, a disease process or injury) or congenital (something occurring or identified at birth).

Sensori-Neural Hearing Loss

Common with ageing but can be seen with noise damage, sensori-neural hearing loss occurs when there is a problem in the inner ear caused by a disruption to the sound signals being sent to the brain for understanding from either the cochlea (sensori) or the auditory nerve (neural). Sensori-neural hearing loss is usually permanent.

General causes of Sensori-neural hearing loss
  • exposure to loud noise
  • diseases, such as meningitis
  • infections
  • inherited hearing loss
  • drugs/medication
  • head injuries
  • disease, trauma or sickness during pregnancy and/or birth
  • aging
How it affects your hearing

Sensori-neural hearing loss affects both the loudness and the quality of the sounds around you. People generally describe this as being aware that people are speaking but not being able to understand them. This can be worse in noisy environments or over distance. This is called loss of sound discrimination.

Conductive Hearing Loss

This type of hearing loss is commonly seen with ear infections and occurs when there is a problem in the outer or middle ear which stops the sounds reaching the hearing nerve. Caused by blockages in the outer or middle ear, or problems with the function of the middle ear bones where the auditory nerve is still functioning normally. Conductive losses can sometimes be helped with medical treatment or surgery.

General causes of Conductive hearing loss
  • middle ear infections
  • a damaged ear drum
  • impacted ear wax
  • structural problems with the outer or middle ear
How it affects your hearing

Conductive hearing loss mostly affects the loudness of the sound. People with this type of loss do particularly well with hearing aids if they are indicated.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Is generally a combination of Sensori-neural and Conductive problems that affects sounds travelling through both the middle ear and inner ear.

What levels of hearing loss are there?

Hearing loss levels is usually described as mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe and profound. To put the level of hearing loss into perspective, our conversational speech is around 65dB.

  • Mild hearing loss (21–45dB) — means some difficulty hearing soft sounds and soft speech in conversation
  • Moderate hearing loss (46–60dB) — means hard to hear conversational speech, especially if there is background noise (such as a television or radio)
  • Moderately Severe hearing loss (61–75dB) — means very difficult to hear ordinary conversation
  • Severe hearing loss (76–90dB) — means you cannot hear conversational speech at all
  • Profound hearing loss (91dB) — almost all sounds are inaudible

Your level of hearing difficulty is determined by a hearing test called an Audiogram, and audiogram tests for pitch and loudness.

What do you need?

The level and type of hearing loss you have will decide whether a hearing device will help you… Not all clients want or need a hearing device. Some people may be referred for further advice depending on the results of their hearing assessment.

About Hearing Assessments

What you need to know