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Types and causes of hearing loss and deafness


Overview

Hearing loss and deafness happen when sound signals don’t reach the brain. This is caused by a problem in the hearing system.

There are two main types of hearing loss. It’s possible to have both types, and this is known as mixed hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss

This is caused by damage to the hair cells inside the inner ear, or damage to the hearing nerve, or both.

It makes it more difficult to hear quiet sounds and reduces the quality of sound that you can hear.

Sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, but can often be treated with hearing aids.

Conductive hearing loss

This happens when a problem with the ear, such as ear wax or an ear infection, stops sound from passing through to the cochlear (the hearing organ).

Sounds will become quieter and may sound muffled. It can be temporary or permanent, depending on the cause.

Conductive hearing loss is usually caused by ear problems.