So, hearing loss is in the ear, but where in the ear?

And what’s the difference between a conductive hearing loss and a sensorineural one? Watch this video blog and find out.

Conductive hearing loss is a loss caused by a blockage in the pathway of sound to the inner ear. A full blockage of ear wax, a middle ear infection, damage to the ear drum or the little bones in the middles ear – all of these things can cause a conductive hearing loss. This is not the type of hearing loss we are talking about when we say age related or noise related.

Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by a problem in the inner ear (cochlea) or the hearing (auditory) nerve. This is the type of hearing loss we are referring to when we say noise induced or age-related.

You can also have both types of hearing loss in one ear – which is called a mixed hearing loss.

These are the types of hearing issues associated with the ear and the hearing nerve itself, NOT the brain.

It’s important to know what type of hearing loss someone has and requires a trained professional to determine with a hearing test. This is not something a hearing screening or hearing test app can accurately measure. And, as an audiologist, I will always repeat a hearing test done by someone who I don’t already trust their diagnostic skills (which often includes tests done at big box stores). 

Sorting out what type and how much hearing loss someone has in which ear, at which frequencies can sometimes be complicated and can dramatically alter treatment options and hearing aid settings. If you are looking for a good audiologist in your area, you can read more here.

This is not to say getting a free hearing test just to see if things are normal or not is a bad thing – it’s not!

Hearing screenings and free checks are great for knowing IF you need a full test. You just have to know where to get a full test if you need one. The good news is, insurance should cover a hearing test, but it might just require a referral from primary care. (e.g. for Medicare). If your primary care doctor doesn’t know a good audiologist to send you to send them to my site or contact me to find someone near you.

What does hearing loss sound like?

That also depends on the type and degree (amount) of hearing loss…

  • Conductive hearing loss (CHL) sounds more like someone turned down the volume overall, it sounds muffled and sometimes like you are under water. Your own voice and chewing can sound loud though. For this hearing loss turning up the volume usually makes things sound much better.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) can sound like the volume is OK but that people just sound like they are mumbling. Even when turning the volume up helps it doesn’t have the same benefit it does for CHL. SNHL can sound distorted and loud sounds often sound louder than they did before the hearing loss. This is why just speaking up or turning up the volume on the TV doesn’t solve the whole issue (learn more about what can work here). Thankfully, properly programmed hearing aids are more sophisticated than your TV volume!

Someone can have tinnitus (sounds in the ears) associated with either of these types of hearing loss but the tinnitus can sound different based on the type and cause of the hearing loss. To learn more about tinnitus take a look at my continuing education course for healthcare providers or free video blog post.

Let me know what other questions you have about hearing or getting your hearing tested.

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