Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is incredibly common, yet it is never easy to face hearing challenges. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize and respond to changes in your hearing. Catching a hearing problem early makes it easier to treat and relieves the stress on our mind and health that come with leaving hearing issues unaddressed.

Identifying the Signs of Hearing Loss

Ear Diagram

Do you know the signs of hearing loss? Hearing loss doesn’t mean that you can’t hear anything. Because most hearing loss is gradual, nuanced sounds like speech begin to sound muffled or mumbled. Sounds in general become harder to comprehend and it becomes more difficult to determine the direction a noise coming from. Watch for the following signals that mean it is time to get your hearing checked:

  • You need speech to be repeated frequently, especially when someone with a high voice, such as a child is speaking
  • You often have to increase the volume on audio controls, and you set the volume on your personal devices towards the maximum setting
  • You find it difficult to keep up with work at your job or school
  • You avoid noisy social situations like parties, concerts, bars and restaurants
  • When multiple people are involved you have difficulty following a conversation
  • Your hearing ability causes anxiety or frustration in your life.

Causes of Hearing Loss

There are many different factors that can contribute to hearing loss. Hearing loss can have an underlying health cause or genetic component. Infections in the ear can cause permanent or temporary hearing damage. Even some medications have side effects that can result in hearing loss. These medicines are known as “ototoxic” drugs.

Injuries to the head and neck have the potential to damage our auditory system. Earwax buildup can become impacted and restrict our ability to hear, as can other objects and debris obstructing the ear canal.

Much of the permanent hearing loss we treat at Ascent Audiology & Hearing is caused by hazardous noise exposure. Noises louder than 85 decibels hold the potential to permanently damage our hearing and sounds at volumes over 120 decibels cause instant damage to unprotected hearing. Noise induced hearing loss is not only the most common form of permanent hearing loss, it is also largely preventable. Protecting your ears from hazardous noise levels is part of lifelong healthy hearing. Using custom hearing protection can drastically reduce your susceptibility to noise-induced hearing damage.

Types of Hearing Loss

When we look at hearing loss, where hearing problems are based in the ear determines the type of hearing loss it is. Issues that concern the outer or middle ear are called “conductive hearing loss”. A hearing problem that is caused by damage to the inner ear is called “sensorineural hearing loss”. Sometimes the same person can have both conductive and sensorineural hearing issues. When this occurs, it is known as “mixed hearing loss”.

Ear outline

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss occurs when hearing is impaired in the outer or middle ear. Conductive hearing loss can be caused by objects or earwax in the ear. A perforated eardrum also causes conductive hearing issues, as can infections of the ear canal. The middle ear also contains small bones that our auditory system uses to sense the vibration of sound waves. When these bones are injured or malformed, conductive hearing loss can result. While some conductive hearing issues can be resolved and hearing restored, others cause permanent hearing loss.

Ear outline

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Most often permanent, sensorineural hearing loss happens when hearing is impaired in the inner ear. The inner ear contains the delicate sensory cells that send sound information to the brain. When these cells are damaged, they do not recover and cause permanent hearing loss. Injury to these fragile sensory apparatuses is often caused by noise exposure which stresses them beyond their capacity. Trauma or infection in the head and neck can also have repercussions in the inner ear.

The inner ear also becomes more vulnerable to damage as we age, especially after age 65. Growing older, it is a smart idea to schedule an annual hearing exam to stay on top of your hearing health.

Configuration of Hearing Loss

We use a number of different metrics to describe hearing loss and how it is occurring in your auditory system.

Bilateral and Unilateral

“Bilateral” or “unilateral” are terms to describe if both ears have hearing loss. If only one ear has significant hearing loss, it is unilateral hearing loss. If both ears are affected, it is bilateral.

Symmetrical and Asymmetrical

Similarly, symmetrical and asymmetrical are used to convey whether the hearing loss between your ears is similar or dissimilar. If both ears experience hearing issues in similar ways, the hearing loss is symmetrical. When each ear has a significantly different hearing range it is asymmetrical hearing loss.


How much your hearing is restricted is conveyed in terms of degree, ranging from mild hearing loss to profound hearing loss. The degree levels are mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe and profound.