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Understanding Hearing Loss

A hearing loss may have several orientations, and these are classified under three broad categories namely:

1.  Conductive
2.  Sensorineural
3.  Mixed

In simple terms, a conductive hearing loss occurs when the outer and/or middle ear is affected. There can be several reasons for this type of loss including any kind of injury, birth defects, infections in the ear, diseases such as otosclerosis etc

Anything that results in the blockage of the ear canal or the acoustic path can affect the outer ear functions resulting in a conductive loss. This may include an under developed Pinna which is a congenital disorder, or excessive accumulation of cerumen or the ear wax which blocks the passage of acoustic energy travelling through the canal.

Problems which constitute to hindering the healthy functions of the middle ear are:

•  Middle Ear Infections
•  Otosclerosis
•  Tumors
•  Congenital Defects
•  Medicinal side effects (generally antibiotics)

Together one or more of the above defects together cause conductive hearing loss in patients. A Sensorineural hearing loss when the vestibulochochlear nerve (which connects the inner ear to the brain) or the central processing centres of the brain are affected. This type of loss can be associated to genetic causes, injuries, side effect of medicines or even the gradual ageing process.

The causes of sensorineural hearing loss may be acquired as well as congenital.

Acquired causes may include :
•  Illness or Diseases (Meningitis, Viral, Measles, Mumps, Syphilis)
•  Antibiotics/ Medicines (Ototoxic Drugs)
•  Long term exposure to noise
•  Physical Trauma/ Injury etc
Congenital reasons may include an :
•  Underdeveloped Cochlea
•  Poor hair cell functions,
•  Chromosomal syndromes,
•  Rh Incompatibility (in pregnant women)

A Mixed loss is a combination of both sensorineural and conductive components. This means that in a mixed loss, the patient may be suffering from problems in outer, middle as well as the inner ear. The loss can range from mild to profound categories.