Hearing Loss


Hearing loss can be temporary or permanent and affects both children and adults. It may be present from birth or acquired at some point later in life. It affects patients differently and the type of hearing loss and the degree of hearing difficulty vary from person to person.

The effects a hearing loss has on an individual also vary and can include difficulties such as trouble with hearing that is present for only certain frequencies, trouble with hearing many different sounds, or trouble understanding speech or conversations. Individualized assessment, including physical examination and hearing testing by a qualified hearing specialist, is needed to appropriately diagnose and treat the features of each individual’s hearing impairment.

Types of Hearing Loss

During the hearing process, sound travels along a pathway through the different parts of the ear to the auditory nerve and eventually to the brain. When something interrupts this process, the resulting hearing loss can be described as conductive, sensori-neural, or mixed. These terms refer to which part of the hearing pathway is not functioning as expected. For conductive hearing loss, something has affected the way the outer or middle ear functions. This could include a problem with the ear canal or the middle ear bones. For sensori-neural hearing loss, there is a problem with the inner ear, sometimes called the cochlea. The term mixed hearing loss refers to cases in which a person demonstrates components of both sensori-neural and conductive hearing loss.

Treatment of Hearing Loss

Treatment options for hearing loss can vary depending on an individual’s unique needs. Common options include medical treatment, use of hearing aids or use of cochlear implants. Sometimes a hearing loss is caused by something that can be improved with medical treatment. An ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor who specializes in working with ear problems and hearing loss can assess the patient and recommend whether medical intervention is appropriate.

Sometimes, hearing loss can be helped by the use of a hearing aid. Hearing aids are external devices that a person wears behind the ear or in the ear canal. This approach works well for many types of conductive or sensory neural hearing loss.

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A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted device that is used to help some types of severe to profound sensori-neural hearing loss. The implant is placed surgically into the inner ear. Sound will then travel along the implant rather than through the inner ear organs. Typically, a candidate for a cochlear implant has severe trouble understanding speech and this difficulty has not been improved by use of hearing aids.

Technological advances have brought about many improvements for hearing aids and cochlear implants. Current devices are able to offer better sound quality and increased user features, and have become less noticeable. ENT doctors can help with determining the type and degree of a person’s hearing loss and can provide information about whether a person is a candidate for a cochlear implant, a hearing aid, or medical treatment for their hearing loss.