Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss Comes in Different Forms

Not all hearing loss is the same. Many effective treatments have been designed to reduce effects of the various forms of hearing loss. The following are descriptions of different types of hearing loss and their associated conditions.

Sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss (perceptive hearing loss) results from an inner ear disorder. We refer to a sensorineural hearing loss when the hair cells, neural fibres or their connections to the cochlea are damaged or do not function optimally.

If part of the inner ear is damaged, the ability to transform mechanical energy into the electrical energy that is sent to the brain is lost or reduced.

Characteristic signs of sensorineural hearing loss:

  • Difficulties hearing sounds, especially soft sounds
  • Difficulties distinguishing and differentiating among sounds, even loud sounds
  • Low level sounds are perceived to be far too soft, and high level sounds too loud
  • Often accompanied by tinnitus

Causes of sensorineural hearing loss:

  • Aging
  • Noise-induced hearing impairment
  • Heredity, congenital
  • Illness or medicine


Hearing loss caused by damage to the inner ear or the nerve paths cannot be treated surgically or medically. Many people with sensorineural loss can, however, benefit from hearing aids.

Conductive Hearing Loss

When sound is not conducted optimally through the outer or middle ear, the result is a conductive hearing loss. The specific hearing loss can originate in the outer ear, ear canal, eardrum, middle ear bones or a combination of these.

A conductive hearing impairment usually gives a mild to moderate hearing loss. The loss can affect all frequencies relatively uniformly or be especially pronounced in the low-frequency region.

Causes of conductive hearing loss:

  • Ear wax
  • Inflammation of the middle ear
  • Perforation of the eardrum
  • Otosclerosis
  • Fracture in the chain of bones
  • Deformity of the outer ear


Most conductive hearing losses can be treated medically or surgically, as for example when the hearing loss is caused by inflammation of the middle ear.

Others are permanent, but people with conductive hearing loss can often be helped with hearing aids.