Hearing loss is common but disabling and can affect people of any age. Deafness often comes on gradually and an individual may not be aware of it for some time. Occasionally someone can lose their hearing suddenly and this can be very distressing. Deafness occurs when there is a problem with sound signals reaching the brain. The cause is important to establish as many of the conditions are reversible or can at least be improved. The two main types of hearing loss can largely be determined by where the problem occurs:
Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves are disturbed in reaching the organ of hearing (cochlea) and sounds become muffled or quieter. It is often caused by wax blockage or outer and middle ear infections. This type of hearing loss may be temporary or rarely permanent.
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is a problem with either the inner ear or the nerve that carries the hearing signals to the brain. Common causes include deafness in old age, certain medications, ear infections and trauma. Whilst some inner ear problems are reversible, the hearing loss is often permanent.
If you are experiencing either sudden or gradual hearing loss, it is important to seek advice so that the condition can be investigated and managed appropriately.