There are three main types of hearing loss:
Permanent hearing loss occurs when inner ear nerves become damaged and do not properly transmit their signals to the brain. Those who suffer from this condition may complain that people seem to mumble or that they hear, but do not understand, what is being said. The aging process is a very common cause of sensorineural hearing loss. As we get older, the inner ear nerves and sensory cells gradually die. The condition is not often medically or surgically treatable. In most cases, the symptoms can be significantly minimized with hearing aids.
In addition to aging, sensorineural hearing loss may be caused by:
These disorders can be either temporary or permanent. They are caused by problems in either the outer or middle ear, which prevent sound from reaching the inner ear. People who experience this condition may find that voices and sounds appear faint. Many forms of conductive hearing loss can be helped medically or surgically. Some common causes of this condition include:
Some people have a combination of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.
Hearing loss is often gradual and not immediately noticed by the person affected. Sometimes friends or family will notice a person's hearing problems before the person with the hearing loss recognizes it. For instance, family members may complain that the person with hearing loss listens to the television or radio too loud and often ask them to repeat what they've just said. Or, that the person with hearing loss doesn't answer the telephone or doorbell because they didn't hear it ringing.
Although each person may experience symptoms of hearing loss differently, some of the most common symptoms may include:
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.