Sensory hearing loss and conductive hearing loss mutually exclusive. In fact, a special phrase is used to refer to cases where both are present: mixed hearing loss. In these cases, the treatment of both forms of hearing loss is necessary to solve the problem. This may include surgery, earwax removal, or hearing aids – among other forms of treatment. Depending on what form of conductive hearing loss is present, treatment may change.
If you or your loved ones are suffering from mixed hearing loss, or you suspect they may need a diagnosis, then this article can fill you with the symptoms, treatment, and causes of mixed hearing loss. From there, you can seek professional help according to your needs.
What is a mixed hearing loss?
As noted above, mixed hearing loss is a “dual” form of hearing loss, classified as a type. People with mixed hearing loss may experience symptoms differently from those suffering from sensorial or conductive hearing loss alone. Because of this, it is classified as a type.
One half of mixed hearing loss is sensory. This means that the cochlea, located in the inner ear, has deteriorated. The cochlea is a spiral, lined with short hairs that pick up sound. When these hairs deteriorate, it becomes difficult to hear the sound. Often, this hearing loss occurs slowly, and some sounds or occurrences occur earlier. This form of hearing loss is largely incurable, but can be treated with instruments such as hearing aids and cochlear implants.
The other half is a conductive hearing loss. This issue is slightly different because many things can cause conductive hearing loss. It is broadly characterized as a blockage in the middle ear, which prevents the sound of the outer ear from funneling. This obstruction can be something as benign as fluid or earwax, for more serious issues such as improper bone growth or tumors. Increasing your conductive hearing loss, it is potentially treatable. Once the blockage goes away, your hearing should improve.
Symptoms of mixed hearing loss
Symptoms of mixed hearing loss can vary from person to person. Depending on the severity of the issue, people suffering from mixed hearing loss may experience profound deafness. While the symptoms of conductive and sensory hearing loss may vary, both cause hearing difficulty in one or both ears.
When discussing symptoms, it is best to attribute them to their respective causes. The sensory aspect of mixed hearing loss is as follows:
- Often, sensorineural hearing loss is bilateral, meaning that it occurs in both ears.
- It can be impossible to give a speech in noisy rooms. This is called the “cocktail party” effect.
- Some sounds, such as consonants in speech, may be difficult to hear.
- Tinnitus in-ear, or ringing/buzzing/humming/roaring.
- Difficulty in listening to high pitched sounds.
Meanwhile, conductive hearing loss may result from more “physical” symptoms, such as:
- Unilateral hearing loss, where you can hear more from one ear than the other.
- Pressure, pain, or “fullness” in one of both ears.
- Odd odor or leakage from the ear canal.
- Your voice sounds different to yourself.
When left untreated, hearing loss can also cause a number of “side effects” symptoms, many of which are mental and emotional. Many people with hearing loss may not realize that these symptoms are caused by hearing loss until they receive treatment.
- A feeling of irritability, or hopelessness.
- Lack of enjoyment in sound (music, conversation, etc.)
- Avoidance of social situations and interactions.
- A feeling of isolation or depression.
- Mental exhaustion, or feeling inappropriately tired at the end of the day.
If symptoms from both sensory and conductive lists are being experienced, there is a chance that both forms of hearing loss are present. In this case, the treatment of mixed hearing loss should be discussed.
Causes of mixed hearing loss
One primary cause of sensorineural hearing loss is noise exposure. Prolonged exposure to loud noise can degrade the cochlea, causing sensorineural hearing loss. For this reason, loud environments such as clubs and shooting ranges can be dangerous.
Conductive hearing loss can be caused by several factors, including:
- abnormal bone growth
- bent / broken earrings
- earwax buildup
- Fluid in the middle ear
- foreign objects
While there is always a chance that you may develop hearing loss, protecting your ears can go a long way in preventing this. Wearing earplugs at strenuous events such as car races and concerts can prevent sensorineural hearing loss, and loud workers should always wear protection. Conductive hearing loss cannot always be avoided, but cleaning and emptying your ears with water can prevent infections and blockages.