Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is categorized by the part of the auditory system that is damaged. There are three main types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed. These types of hearing loss can also occur in only one ear, which we call a unilateral hearing loss.


Conductive Hearing Loss

You have a conductive hearing loss if something is keeping sound from entering your outer or middle ear. This hearing loss can be either temporary or permanent. It can also usually be treated successfully.

For more information about the causes and treatments for this type of hearing loss, read my Conductive Hearing Loss article.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

You have sensorineural hearing loss (“nerve deafness”) if there is nerve damage to your inner ear or brain. This kind of damage keeps nerve impulses from reaching the auditory part of your brain. This nerve damage can occur in the brain, cochlea, or the ear’s auditory nerve. This hearing loss is permanent, and can not be cured.

For more information about the causes and treatments for this type of hearing loss, read my Sensorineural Hearing Loss article.

Mixed Hearing Loss

You have a mixed hearing loss if you have a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. This usually happens when there is both inner ear or nerve damage and damage to the outer or middle ear.

Unilateral Hearing Loss

You have a unilateral hearing loss (UHL) if your loss of hearing is experienced in only one ear. UHL can happen to you no matter how old you are and is surprisingly common (one of out 1000 children is born with UHL).

It is difficult to know the cause of UHL, but here are some possible causes include:

  • Hereditary hearing loss
  • Certain illness or infection
  • Over-exposure to loud noises
  • Brain trauma