Types of Hearing Loss

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In general, hearing loss can be categorized into one of three groups: sensorineural, conductive and mixed. The main difference between them is where the hearing loss takes place in the ear — does the hearing loss come from something in the outer, middle or inner ear? It can also include whether the hearing loss is due to your auditory nerve or due to damage or blockage to your ear.

If you think you or someone you know has one of these types of impairments, you can read our guide on the signs and symptoms of hearing loss or call us to book a hearing test.


Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss and occurs when the root cause lies in the inner ear, a sensory organ or the nerve that transmits sound information from the inner ear to the brain. This type of hearing loss can be caused by many factors such as heredity, age, continuous exposure to excessive noise, diabetes, and more.


Conductive hearing loss occurs when there is a problem transferring sound waves from the outer ear to the middle ear. This type of hearing loss can be caused by excessive earwax, an infection, a perforated eardrum, and many other causes. Most conductive hearing loss can be fixed medically, using special medication, simple procedures, or surgery.

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Mixed hearing loss occurs when there is both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss present. This can happen if there is damage to the outer ear as well as the inner ear. Having mixed hearing loss might make your hearing worse than if you just had one type of hearing loss.


In addition to the three main types of hearing loss mentioned above, you may have also heard about other kinds of hearing impairment. These tend to be more descriptive categories for hearing loss that touch on the cause, severity, or status of your hearing. In general, they can fall into any of the three main types listed above.

They include the following:

Congenital hearing loss

Congenital hearing loss is hearing loss that is present at birth. It can include hereditary hearing loss as well as hearing loss due to other factors present during birth or in-utero.

Low or high frequency hearing loss

Low frequency hearing loss is a hearing loss where you cannot hear sounds that occur in the lower end of sound frequency. High frequency hearing loss refers to the opposite, and is the more common between the two classifications. This is why we commonly ask clients if they have more difficulty hearing women and children speak, as their voices tend to register in higher frequencies.

Unilateral or bilateral hearing loss

Unilateral hearing loss occurs when there is normal hearing in one ear, but impaired hearing in the other ear. On the other hand, bilateral hearing loss occurs when hearing loss is present in both ears.

Temporary hearing loss

Hearing loss can be temporary and last for short periods of time or until it or the underlying issue is resolved. The top three causes for temporary hearing loss are exposure to loud noise, excessive ear wax, and middle ear infections. Once any of those problems are removed, you will find that your hearing returns to normal or similar levels.

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