Types of hearing loss There are three basic types of hearing loss which are classified based on which parts of the hearing mechanism are responsible for the loss. Conductive hearing loss:

This type of loss can involve problems with the ear canal, tympanic membrane (eardrum), the middle ear space, eustashian tube, and the three tiny bones of the middle ear (ossicles)

External Ear Infections can occur in the ear canal causing swelling and discharge which can narrow the canal and effect hearing. If there is excessive cerumen (earwax) this can also cause some difficulty with the hearing. These conditions are best addressed by an ENT physician. Problems with the tympanic membrane (eardrum) can include a ruptured eardrum or stiffening of the eardrum. Middle Ear The middle ear bones (ossicles), can be damaged by trauma. A common example of this is when a cotton swab is accidently pushed through the eardrum, into the ossicles. This type of condition may require surgery. They ossicles may also degenerate due to a genetically inherited condition called Otosclerosis. This condition is also sometimes treated with surgery or by the use of hearing aids. During an ear infection, the middle ear space can develop changes in ear pressure. This is often due to a sub-optimal functioning of the pressure balancing eustachian tube. Inner Ear - Sensorineural Hearing Loss The inner-ear contains the snail-shaped cochlea, inside of which are the thousands of tiny haircells which convert sound into signals, which are conducted by nerves to the auditory processing section of the brain. Sensorineural Hearing Loss involves a degeneration of the haircells in one or more regions of the cochlea. It can be caused by exposure to loud noise, especially with repeated exposure. It can also be a side effect of certain illnesses such as Meniere’s Disease. It may also occur as a side effect of treatment with certain medicines. One example is the chemotherapeutic agent, Cisplatin. The most common cause however, is a loss of haircell function due to accumulated wear due to aging. In adults this is most commonly known as Presbycusis or age-related hearing loss.
Do I have a Hearing Loss? Most cases of hearing loss occur gradually, over a period of years. Because of this, it is not always apparent that you are missing some sounds that you used to hear. The people around you will actually notice and sometimes comment on your difficulty hearing before you are aware of it yourself. The only sure way to know the exact condition of your hearing and its effect on your speech understanding, is a hearing evaluation with a licensed audiologist. Audiologists are not MDs. They are the medical professionals who are licensed to test hearing and diagnose hearing loss. They will also counsel patients about hearing technology and fit them with the appropriate hearing devices.
Other Causes of Sensorineural Hearing Loss Trauma to the head can sometimes cause a crack in the temporal bone, which houses the cochlea. This can result in a hearing loss on the side of the head which was struck and is often permanent. Certain brain conditions can also effect how the brain processes speech. For example, some patients are unable to understand speech after a stroke. Treatment of Sensorineural Hearing Loss CCurrently there are no pharmaceutical or surgical treatments for the vast majority of cases of moderate sensorineural hearing loss. The best current approaches combine strategies to optimize communication situations, with smart use of assistive listening technologies and digital hearing devices. Although there is currently no method to restore 100% of hearing capability, this combined approach of strategies, with well-chosen digital technology, can produce a noticeable improvement in speech understanding in conversation. Mixed Loss Some patient have a hearing loss which has both conductive and sensorineural components. In these cases, a combination of both medical and audiological treatment may be used to give the patient the best possible results. A full hearing test is easy and takes about forty minutes The audiologist is the medical professional who is licensed and most qualified to test and diagnose, the condition of your hearing. With the results of your test, he will review your unique hearing profile with you. If there is any hearing impairment present, he is well qualified to show you ways to minimize its impact and increase your ease of communication. Aural rehabilitation may be another tool used to increase your ease of communication. It provides specific training to the brain, so you are better able to catch and decode speech sounds. It is like physical therapy, for your brain. Aural rehabilitation can be especially helpful in improving speech understanding in challenging listening situations, such as in noisy restaurants and large family gatherings. The first step is to find out exactly how well you are hearing. Fortunately, most medical insurance plans, including Medicare, will pay for a diagnostic hearing test to rule out hearing loss. This is true whether your results show a loss or normal hearing.