Hearing Loss Explained

Hearing loss occurs when there is a problem with one or more parts of the ear. Learn more about how hearing works, what causes hearing loss, and the five different types of hearing loss.

No. There are actually five different types of hearing loss:

  1. Conductive: Occurs when there is a condition of the outer or middle ear that prevents sound from reaching the inner ear and brain. Causes can include blockage of the outer ear or ear canal, an ear infection with fluid, or a malformation of the outer or middle ear. The hearing loss may be temporary or treatable with medication or surgery. If the condition cannot be addressed through medication or surgery, many people with conductive hearing loss may benefit from hearing aids.
  2. Sensorineural: Usually the result of a problem with the cochlea, either through malformation or damage. Damage can occur from infections such as meningitis, or as a side effect of certain ototoxic medications (toxic to parts of the ear). This type of hearing loss typically cannot be treated with medication. Options such as hearing aids, middle ear implants or cochlear implants vary depending on the cause and severity of the hearing loss. Having your child fitted with appropriate hearing devices as quickly as possible following diagnosis is an important step towards improving your child’s access to sound.
  3. Mixed: A combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
  4. Neural: A rare condition resulting from damage or malformation to the auditory (hearing) nerve that connects the cochlea (inner ear) to the brain. The hearing loss is usually profound and permanent. Traditional treatment options like hearing aids or cochlear implants are typically not viable because in cases of neural hearing loss, the auditory nerve is not able to transmit information to the brain. In some cases, auditory brainstem implants have been utilized with limited success.
  5. Auditory Neuropathy: Occurs when sound travels through to the inner ear normally, but further transmission of sound to the brain is impaired. Children and adults with Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder (ANSD) can have hearing loss that ranges from mild to severe and the ability to understand speech varies widely. This type of hearing loss can be very difficult to diagnose as hearing abilities may appear to change back and forth, making it particularly important that a pediatric audiologist with experience in diagnosing ANSD is consulted.

Reach Us

Alexander Graham Bell Association
for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

3417 Volta Place NW
Washington, D.C. 20007

Tel: 202-337-5220
TTY: 202-337-5221


Our Mission

Working globally to ensure that people who are deaf and hard of hearing can hear and talk. 

We want all families to be informed and supported, professionals to be appropriately qualified to teach and help children with hearing loss, public policy leaders to effectively address the needs of people with hearing loss, and communities to be empowered to help their neighbors with hearing loss succeed.