People generally develop hearing loss or deafness because they have one or more auditory problems. There are several types of auditory problems that result from auditory processing issues in the brain or from damage to one or more parts of the ear. Problems include difficulty in understanding spoken language, acoustic tumors, and conductive hearing loss. Many people manage and overcome auditory problems with medical treatment and hearing devices. A doctor who specializes in ear care may give a patient a hearing test to diagnose a specific type of hearing disorder.
Auditory processing problems occur when the brain improperly processes auditory signals from the inner ear. Some people have difficulty understanding spoken language because they often cannot discern between similar sounds. Individuals with auditory memory problems may not be able to remember information, such as a name or phone number, which they hear during a conversation. A person who can hear well in a quiet room might have difficulty concentrating on a conversation that takes place in a room where there is a lot of background noise.
Sensorineural hearing problems occur when the nerves of the inner ear are damaged and auditory information is not properly transmitted to the brain. The sensory cells and nerves in the inner ear gradually die as a person gets older and age-related hearing loss develops. Other causes of sensorineural hearing loss include exposure to loud noises, acoustic tumors, and ear injuries. Several diseases and medical disorders, such as meningitis, diabetes, and stroke, can cause this type of hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss causes sounds to appear distorted or faint. This type of hearing loss results from outer ear or middle ear problems that restrict the transmission of sounds to the inner ear. A buildup of earwax in the ear canal is a common cause of conductive hearing loss. People who have an infection in the middle ear or ear canal, an accumulation of fluid in the middle ear, or a foreign object inside the ear canal may experience auditory problems. Some individuals develop hearing loss as a result of a mixture of sensorineural and conductive causes.
Many people with auditory problems experience an improvement in their hearing after they receive medical treatments or an assistive device. Earwax accumulation in an ear canal can often be removed by a doctor if the wax causes hearing loss. A physician may use an oil solution to soften the wax and carefully extract the waxy substance. In many cases, people with permanent hearing loss use a hearing aid that is worn over the ear to improve sound quality and make hearing easier. Individuals with a severe loss of hearing from inner ear damage may receive a cochlear implant that can improve the quality of auditory signals that are sent to the brain.