There are two broad categories of hearing loss. The first, sensorineural hearing loss, or nerve hearing loss, involves a reduction in function of the hearing nerve or the inner ear (called the cochlea). Secondly, conductive hearing loss, is caused by dysfunction of the sound collecting system of the middle ear (the eardrum and the three middle ear bones: the malleus, the incus, and the stapes). Frequently, problems with the middle ear system may be addressed with surgery. In some instances, both types of hearing loss exist, and this is referred to mixed hearing loss.
A thorough evaluation of hearing loss consists of a history, physical examination, sophisticated audiologic testing, and frequently medical imaging. It is our goal to reverse hearing impairment as much as possible and/or to avoid ongoing damage. Several hearing devices and surgically implantable hearing options are options for maximizing hearing.
Problems with the eardrum perforation, middle ear bones, cholesteatoma, fluid and chronic infection among others frequently produce a conductive hearing loss. Frequently, delicate surgical procedures can treat these conditions and improve hearing.
In extreme cases, little to no residual hearing exists producing severe hearing impairment or deafness. In these cases, both children and adults can use a miraculous technology that allows restoration of functional sound to deaf patients known as cochlear implants. Cochlear implants have advanced amazingly in the last 5 years, and many patients who previously were not candidates for implantation are receiving devices.