What’s the Difference Between Sensorineural & Conductive Hearing Loss?

An estimated 15% of adults over the age of 18 in the United States report having difficulty hearing. Hearing loss is very common. If you have been diagnosed with hearing loss, you’re certainly not alone.

Understanding the different types of hearing loss can help you make more informed decisions in the future. Today, we’re looking at the difference between sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.

What are the Types of Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss can be broken into three basic categories:

  • Sensorineural hearing loss
  • Conductive hearing loss
  • Mixed hearing loss

What is Sensorineural Hearing Loss?

90% of people in the U.S. with hearing loss will have sensorineural hearing loss. It is the most common form of hearing loss. It is caused by damage to the delicate hair cells in your ear. It can also be the result of damage to nerves involved in carrying auditory information from your ear to your brain.

Learn more about the causes, symptoms and treatments for sensorineural hearing loss here.

What is Conductive Hearing Loss?

Conductive hearing loss is caused by a blockage in your ear. If you have an obstruction or blockage lodged in your ear, it can interfere with sound vibrations entering your ear. This can cause hearing loss.

Common causes of conductive hearing loss include:

  • Colds
  • Allergies
  • Ear Infection
  • Earwax
  • Physical blockage / obstruction

In most cases, conductive hearing loss is treatable by addressing the blockage or obstruction.

What is Mixed Hearing Loss?

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. Mixed hearing loss can happen if you already have hearing loss, and then end up with an obstruction causing conductive hearing loss.

What’s the Difference Between Sensorineural & Conductive Hearing Loss?

Now that we’ve covered the main types of hearing loss, we can look at the differences between them. The biggest difference between sensorineural and conductive hearing loss is their causes and treatment options.

Common Causes of Sensorineural and Conductive Hearing Loss

Some of the more common causes of sensorineural hearing loss include:

  • Age related hearing loss (presbycusis)
  • Noise exposure (Noise induced hearing loss)

Other, less common causes of sensorineural hearing loss may include:

  • Injury to your inner ear
  • Viruses (such as mumps)
  • Ototoxicity (hearing loss due to medicines)
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease

Common causes of conductive hearing loss include:

  • Earwax
  • Infection
  • Blockage or obstruction
  • Allergies or general congestion

Treatment Options for Sensorineural and Conductive Hearing Loss

Common treatment options for sensorineural hearing loss include:

  • Hearing aids
  • A cochlear implant

Common treatment options for conductive hearing loss include:

  • Removal of the blockage or obstruction
  • Treating underlying cause (congestion, virus, allergies)
  • Surgery

Hearing loss happens gradually over time. As a result, it can often be difficult to spot early on. Read more about the common signs of hearing loss here.

If you suspect that your hearing has changed, please book in an appointment with our hearing healthcare team. Earlier intervention can help protect your hearing into the future. To book an appointment with HearingLife (formerly Family Audiology), call 607-323-4061 or click here to book a consultation with us online.

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