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Types and degree of hearing loss

Types of hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss (CHL)

A CHL is a hearing loss due to a problem in the outer ear or middle ear that may prevent sounds from getting to the organ of hearing (inner ear).  There are many reasons for a CHL, most commonly in children is glue ear (middle ear congestion) which can cause a temporary hearing loss. Other reasons for a CHL may be outer ear malformation, a perforated ear drum, infection or problems with the middle ear bones or wax. A CHL is usually temporary but can sometimes be permanent. Temporary CHL levels can fluctuate (get better and worse). Treatment for a CHL can be hearing aids, surgery or monitoring.  

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL)

This  is an issue with the inner ear and most often is damage to the hair cells in the hearing organ. Other causes include damage to the nerve of hearing called the auditory nerve. A SNHL can occur from birth although you can acquire a hearing loss due to age, noise exposure, chemotherapy, bacterial meningitis or because of a progressive hearing loss that may run in the family.  A SNHL is permanent and is managed with hearing aids.

Mixed hearing loss

A mixed hearing loss is a combination of both a conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. There may be problems in the outer or middle ear as well as the inner ear or auditory nerve. Children with a permanent sensorineural hearing loss may also  have a temporary, overlapping conductive hearing loss due to middle ear congestion.

All levels of hearing loss can affect a child’s speech, language and education as we need to hear clearly to learn. The graph below shows hearing levels in relation to everyday sounds. 

PHS - Hearing loss graph
Courtesy of Phonak

Please refer to our booklet ‘Communication Tips’ on suggestions for how you can improve the listening environment for your child for effective communication.