Mixed Hearing Loss: What is It and What Causes It?

Today, nearly 20% of the worldwide population suffers from hearing loss says the WHO.

This stat, however, covers the entire spectrum from mild hearing loss all the way to deafness.

This week, we’re going to be talking about one of the lesser known types of hearing loss which is referred to as mixed hearing loss.

We’ll talk about what it is, what causes it, and how an audiologist can help in treating it.

Let’s dive in.

Defining mixed hearing loss

We’ve discussed on this blog before the two major kinds of hearing loss, conductive sensorineural hearing loss.

In short, conductive hearing loss refers to an issue with the outer or middle ear while sensorineural hearing loss is when there is a problem in the inner ear.

Mixed hearing loss, then, is exactly as it sounds: a combination of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss where the inner ear, as well as the middle or outer ear, are affected.

What causes mixed hearing loss?

Common causes of mixed hearing loss include anything that can affect different regions of the ear, including certain medications, illness, or head trauma. 

Mixed hearing loss doesn’t necessarily have to happen all at once. People can often have one type of hearing loss that leads to another. 

According to The Encyclopedia of Public Health, there can be situations where the two types are “one leading to a conductive hearing loss (such as [an infection]) and another leading to a sensory loss (such as noise exposure).”

This makes it all the more important to pay attention to your hearing health and protect your hearing as the two combined together will mean worse hearing than if you had only one type.

Treating mixed hearing loss

Treating mixed hearing loss starts with identifying the causes of damage to each section of the ear. Once your hearing care professional has done an examination, treatment will likely consist of focusing on the different parts of the ear affected by the root cause.

For conductive hearing loss, this usually means removing the obstruction or damage done to the outer and middle ear. This might include earwax, fluid from an infection, or growths. Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL), meanwhile, is a bit trickier of a situation. 

SNHL is characterized by damage to the small hair follicles in the innermost parts of the ear and as of this writing, it is not possible to reverse it at this time. If SNHL occurs suddenly, such as within 72 hours, it may be possible to recover most if not all of your hearing if you seek treatment immediately.

Either way, it may not be possible to recover all hearing but treatment and using a hearing aid can vastly improve your quality of life.

Conclusion

Hopkins Medicine writes that in many cases, people “may have a sensorineural hearing loss and then develop a conductive component in addition [to that].”

If you suspect you have any kind of hearing loss, you should make an appointment with a hearing care professional immediately. 

 

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