Sensorineural Hearing Loss vs. Conductive

A Comparative Guide
Last update on Jan, 30, 2024

Did you know there are 3 types of hearing loss?

These categories include conductive, sensorineural, and mixed.

By understanding their causes and symptoms, you can better understand your own hearing health journey and seek the right treatment plan.

In this article, we'll explore the differences between two of the most common types of hearing loss: sensorineural hearing loss vs. conductive hearing loss.

What Is Sensorineural Hearing Loss?

Sensorineural Hearing Loss occurs when there is damage to hair cells in the inner ear or the auditory nerve that transmits sound signals to the brain.

As mentioned, it's the most common type of hearing loss and is usually permanent; however, people with this condition can still lead fulfilling lives with the help of hearing aids or other assistive hearing technology.

Causes of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

You may develop this type of hearing loss from the following:

  • Natural aging process
  • Exposure to loud noises
  • Certain medications (e.g., Ibuprofen Naproxen, Neomycin, etc.)
  • Head trauma or injury
  • Genetics 

Common Symptoms

With sensorineural hearing loss, you may experience one or a combination of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty understanding speech
  • Hearing muffled or distorted sounds
  • Difficulty hearing in noisy environments
  • The perception of sounds being too loud or too soft

Ringing or buzzing in ears

What Is Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss?

As the name suggests, sudden sensorineural hearing loss will occur rapidly (meaning there is little to no buildup to the event) over 72 hours.

It typically occurs in one ear and can lead to symptoms like vertigo and tinnitus. While it can affect you at any age, adults between 50 and 60 may be at higher risk. This condition is serious and requires immediate medical attention from a hearing care provider.

Treating Sensorineural Hearing Loss

The most common treatment for this condition involves anti-inflammatory medicines, particularly corticosteroids. This type of treatment is particularly effective if your hearing care provider suspects any injury to the hearing organ (i.e., cochlea) that causes swelling or blockage of blood flow.

If after treatment, you still experience hearing loss, your provider may prescribe hearing aids or cochlear implants to help improve your hearing and communication abilities. 

What Is Conductive Hearing Loss?

Conductive Hearing Loss occurs when sound waves are not conducted efficiently through the outer or middle ear, reducing the volume of sound that reaches the inner ear. 

Causes of Conductive Hearing Loss

You may develop conductive hearing loss for several reasons, including:

  • Earwax buildup
  • Fluid in the middle ear
  • Ear infections
  • Damage to the eardrum
  • Damage to the small bones in the middle ear

Common Symptoms

Some common symptoms include:

  • Muffled or distorted sound
  • Difficulty understanding speech, especially in noisy environments
  • Feeling like your ears are plugged or stuffed
  • Pain or discomfort in the affected ear
  • Ringing or buzzing in the ear
  • Increased sensitivity to loud sounds
  • Ear infections or fluid drainage from the ear
  • Trouble with balance or dizziness (in severe cases)

While conductive hearing loss can be temporary, it can still significantly impact your ability to hear and communicate effectively.

Can You Treat Conductive Hearing Loss?

The treatment for conductive hearing loss depends on the underlying cause, but it can range from medical intervention to surgery.

When hearing loss is temporary, it may resolve spontaneously or with medication. For more severe or chronic cases, however, hearing aids or may be necessary to improve hearing.

As with sensorineural hearing loss, you'll need to consult a hearing care provider to determine the best treatment option for your situation.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss vs. Conductive: Can You Have Both?

It's not uncommon for someone with sensorineural hearing loss to develop conductive hearing loss. This is known as mixed hearing loss—one of the three categories mentioned earlier.

This can be a challenging condition to manage, as it may require both medical and technological interventions to address both the conductive and sensorineural components of the hearing loss.

The good news is treatment is available, but the first step is meeting with a hearing care provider.

Hearing care appointment

Connect with a Provider in Your Area

Don't wait until it's too late to address your hearing loss. Early identification and treatment can prevent further damage to your hearing health. At Amplifon Hearing Health Care, we can connect you with a skilled hearing care provider who can perform a comprehensive hearing evaluation and recommend the best treatment options that fit your needs, lifestyle, and budget.

Unsure about coverage?

We can help with that, too. Use our Check Your Benefits tool now to find out what services and products you qualify for. Take the first step towards better hearing health today.

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