Mixed hearing loss has elements of both conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss. This means there is damage to both the outer and inner ear. The outer ear cannot conduct sound properly to the inner ear, and the inner ear can’t process the sound to be sent to the brain. The sensorineural component (inner ear) is usually permanent, but the conductive hearing loss (outer ear) may not be. Many people with mixed hearing loss experience sounds as very soft in volume and difficult to understand.
The most typical causes of mixed hearing loss are the same as for conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, and include:
- Genetic factors
- Aging; after age 65, one out of three people has hearing loss
- Excessive noise, often from work or listening to loud music
- Certain medications
- Birth conditions
- Tumors and diseases
- Head trauma
- Ear wax
- Ear infections
- Hearing aids can often help people with mixed hearing loss. Behind-the-ear (BTE) style hearing aids may be the prescribed option, because their additional power is sometimes needed to address severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss.
- Cochlear implants are also an option that can be used to address the sensorineural aspect of mixed hearing loss.
- Conductive hearing loss can sometimes be treated with surgery, particularly in the case of a tumor or blockage.
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