Understanding Hearing Loss – Part 2
You Made it to Part 2!
Now that you know the basics of understanding hearing loss, it’s time to talk about the types of hearing loss. There are four main types of hearing loss – conductive, sensorineural, mixed, and central. Each type can negatively affect your child’s hearing. Let’s learn about each one.
Conductive Hearing Loss
This type of hearing loss can occur when there is a block or other physical barrier in the ear. Conductive hearing loss is not permanent and can fluctuate. Ear infections in children are very common and may lead to a conductive hearing loss. Although not a permanent loss, the child’s hearing is impacted when a conductive loss is present. This could negatively affect speech and language development, especially in cases of frequent ear infections (and subsequent long periods of conductive hearing loss). Your child may be missing out on important vocabulary, grammar markers, speech sounds, and other language skills because s/he is not consistently hearing the speech and language that is being modeled. Talk to your doctor, audiologist, or speech language pathologist if your child has frequent ear infections or other known conductive hearing loss.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
This type of hearing loss results when there is damage to the cochlea in the inner ear or along the nerve pathway from the inner ear to the brain. This type of hearing loss is permanent and cannot be medically or surgically repaired, although there are options (e.g., cochlear implants) that can aid in hearing. Sensorineural hearing loss can affect any frequency and can be progressive (i.e., it can worsen over time). There are many causes of sensorineural hearing loss including but not limited to – genetic factors, illness/disease, aging, and trauma. Luckily, all babies are screened for sensorineural hearing loss at birth before they leave the hospital. If your doctor asks you to make a follow-up appointment after the hearing screen at birth, please follow up within your doctor’s guidelines to ensure the hearing health of your child. A child with sensorineural hearing loss is every bit as capable and bright as his/her peers, but will likely need heavy intervention from a team of providers (including but not limited to a speech pathologist and audiologist) to help them grow to their potential and meet their goals.
Mixed Hearing Loss
This one is more straight forward. It’s a mix between a conductive hearing loss and a sensorineural hearing loss. For example, someone with a mild sensorineural hearing loss can get an ear infection resulting in a conductive loss on top of their sensorineural loss (that’s a double whammy!).
Central Hearing Loss
A central hearing loss is not so straight forward. It occurs when something goes wrong in the brainstem or the brain cortex, but the ear structures and nerve pathways leading to the bran are intact. A person with a central hearing loss may “hear” just fine but have trouble processing speech or other complex information.
Hope this helps. Go on the Part 3 of this series to read about the non-obvious ways that hearing loss can present itself and how you can help!