It’s hard to imagine a world where all the sounds are tuned to a very low volume and every conversation seems like a whisper you have to strain your ears just to listen. This is the reality for people who have hearing impairments—- a silent and lonely world. Still, there are types of hearing loss that can be treated with surgery and some can make use of hearing aids to improve their quality of hearing.
There are two types of hearing loss: conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Here is an overview of both:
- Conductive Hearing Loss – this occurs when the normal transmission of sound from the outer ear to the canal, eardrum or to the three tiny bones of the ear is interrupted. This type of hearing impairment may be caused by as simple as an ear wax, a foreign body or moderate to severe conditions such as infection, perforated ear drums, tumors or genetic defects in the bones of the ear. This is usually treated by surgery.
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss – this is caused by damage to the inner ear, specifically the cochlea, which is a shell-shaped structure in the cochlea that vibrates when sound is transmitted. The vibration stimulates the hair cells which then send an electrical current to the auditory nerve. This type of hearing loss can be improved by using hearing aids.
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type. Some individuals can have a mixed conductive and sensorineural type.
There are two hearing aids types that are implantable. Bone-anchored hearing aids (BAHA) and middle ear implants (MEI) are amplification platforms that enhance hearing by facilitating bone and air conduction of sound; BAHA and MEI are useful for conductive hearing loss. In contrast, cochlear implants work by creating electrical impulses that stimulate the auditory nerve and are surgically implanted in both ears for patients with severe to profound hearing loss.
All implantable hearing aids are surgically placed in the ear and are invasive procedures for the hearing impaired. Still, surgery is only indicated for hearing-impaired individuals that cannot benefit from the use of hearing aids.