Types of hearing impairments

There are three types of hearing impairments:

  1. Conductive hearing loss (blockage of the outer or middle ear)
  2. Sensorineural hearing loss (damage to the inner ear, damage to the nerves connecting the inner ear to the brain or both issues)
  3. Mixed hearing loss (a combination of conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss)

For patients with each of these types of hearing impairments, wearing hearing aids specifically designed to mitigate the impact of each type of impairment can significantly improve their hearing, as well as enhance the overall quality of their life.

What are the main causes of hearing loss?

Before we discuss hearing loss, it is helpful to understand how you hear. Ears are comprised of three major areas:

  1. Outer ear
  2. Middle ear
  3. Inner ear

Sound waves pass through the outer ear; this causes vibrations at the eardrum. The vibrations amplify as they travel from the eardrum and the three small bones of the middle ear to the inner ear. Next, the vibrations pass through fluid to the cochlea, a snail-shaped structure located in the inner ear.

Thousands of tiny hairs help translate sound vibrations into electrical signals. These signals are transmitted to your brain; this is what we refer to as “sound.”


While it is not classified as a type of hearing loss, tinnitus is a common issue. Tinnitus, the perception of noise or ringing in the ears, affects approximately 20% of the population. Tinnitus has been linked to the following conditions:

  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Fear, stress and anxiety

Our staff can identify and assist patients with solutions to manage tinnitus. More than 50% of people with tinnitus also experience hearing loss. For more details, please visit our Tinnitus Therapy.

What are some different ways hearing loss can occur?

There are several reasons why hearing loss occurs, including:

  • Inner ear damage – aging and exposure to loud noises may damage the hairs or nerve cells in the cochlea, the part of the ear that sends sound signals to the brain. When hairs or nerve cells are damaged (or non-existent), electrical signals cannot be transmitted as efficiently. Hearing loss occurs.

Another symptom of inner ear damage is that high-pitched tones may sound muffled. Words and background noise may sound like they are blended together.

  • Earwax buildup – excessive earwax can block the ear canal and prevent sound waves traveling to different parts of the ear. Removing the earwax can restore hearing.
  • Ear infection/abnormal bone growths/tumors – infections or growths in the outer or middle ear can result in hearing loss.
  • Tympanic membrane perforation – this condition is also called a ruptured eardrum. Loud noises, sudden changes in pressure, damaging your eardrum with an object and/or infection can cause hearing loss.

What are some symptoms of hearing loss?

It is very difficult to recognize your own symptoms of hearing loss. If you are experiencing hearing loss, someone else may point out of the following signs and symptoms of hearing loss to you (or you may notice them in someone else):

  • Muffled speech and other sounds
  • Struggling to understand words and difficulty distinguishing them against other noises (e.g. talking with music playing at a family gathering)
  • Difficulty hearing consonants
  • Asking people to repeat what they have said louder and more clearly
  • Turning up the volume of the television or radio
  • Decreased willingness to engage in or contribute to conversations
  • Avoiding social gatherings