Deaf Awareness Month

September is Deaf Awareness month. Many South Africans are in the dark about the challenges that people with hearing loss face daily. This month we will look at the different types and causes of hearing loss.

Generally, there are two types, conductive and sensorineural. A combination of both is known as a mixed hearing loss.

Conductive Hearing Loss

There are various reasons for conductive hearing loss. It can be caused by any condition or disease that obstructs the passage of sound in its mechanical form through the middle ear cavity to the inner ear. Conductive hearing loss typically involves a reduction in sound level. This type of hearing loss can often be corrected medically or surgically.

Below are a few possible causes of conductive hearing loss:

  • Fluid in the middle ear from colds
  • Ear infection (otitis media)
  • Allergies (serous otitis media)
  • Poor eustachian tube function
  • Perforated eardrum
  • Benign tumors
  • Impacted earwax (cerumen)
  • Infection in the ear canal (external otitis)
  • Swimmer’s Ear (otitis ecxterna)
  • Presence of a foreign body
  • Absence or malformation of the outer ear, ear canal, or middle ear

Sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear, or to the nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain. In most cases sensorineural hearing loss cannot be medically or surgically corrected. This is the most common type of permanent hearing loss.

Below are a few possible causes of sensorineural hearing loss:

  • Illnesses
  • Drugs that are toxic to hearing
  • Hearing loss that runs in the family (genetic or hereditary)
  • Aging
  • Head trauma
  • Malformation of the inner ear
  • Exposure to loud noise

Mixed Hearing Loss

Sometimes a conductive hearing loss occurs in combination with a sensorineural hearing loss. There may be damage in the outer or middle ear and in the inner ear. When this occurs, it is referred to as a mixed hearing loss.

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