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A question we’re often asked by our patients and their families is: what are the different types of hearing loss? It’s a great question, the answers to which can shed light on what they’re experiencing and highlight a path to recovery or easing of symptoms.

In this article, we’re going to walk you through the main 3 types of hearing loss as well as some typical causes and treatments for each one. It’s important to remember, though, that every patient is unique. Every case of hearing loss is different and certain treatments may work for some patients but not others.

It’s important that if you are experiencing any hearing loss, you should speak to an audiologist or your GP as soon as possible. If you would like to book a consultation with one of our expert audiologists, simply call 01279 757077 or email us on

Conductive Hearing Loss

This type of hearing loss occurs when sound cannot get through the outer or middle part of your ear. You may have experienced this before if you had an earwax build-up which can cause conductive hearing loss.

It generally makes it harder to hear soft sounds and louder sounds may be muffled or distorted. There can also be a feeling of discomfort or pain in your ear, which could be a symptom of the cause as well.

Conductive hearing loss is often caused by one of the following:

  • Earwax build-up in your ear canal
  • Ear infection in the middle part of your ear or ear canal
  • Fluid in your ear, often associated with colds or allergies
  • A hole in your eardrum
  • An object stuck in your outer ear
  • Genetic causes, such as poor eustachian tube function – the tubes that connect your middle ear and nose, allowing fluid to drain – or a birth defect in the outer or middle ear

Thankfully, this type of hearing loss is treatable. More often than not, medication clears up conductive hearing loss, but on rare occasions, surgery may be required.

Conductive hearing loss can lead to pain and swelling in and around the ear, especially if an earwax blockage or infection are the causes.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

The most common type of hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL), happens once your inner ear becomes damaged. It can also be caused by damage to the nerves around your ear. Similar to other kinds of hearing loss, SNHL makes soft sounds difficult to hear and louder sounds become unclear or muffled.

SNHL is often caused by one of the following:

  • A variety of illnesses
  • Ageing
  • Head trauma, such as a strong blow to the head
  • Genetic hearing loss
  • Exposure to loud noises or explosions over a prolonged period
  • Certain drugs that affect the ear

Unfortunately, SNHL is largely untreatable. The easiest way to improve hearing in this case is to use hearing aids. That being said, there are select cases where surgery or certain types of medication can help. It’s important to consult a GP or audiologist if you’re concerned.

Mixed Hearing Loss

A rarer type of hearing loss, mixed hearing loss happens when you experience conductive and sensorineural hearing loss at the same time. This means that there is damage to both the outer/middle ear and the inner ear/nerves.

Mixed hearing loss is caused by a mixture of SNHL and conductive hearing loss causes. An example of this would be someone suffering from SNHL due to their age whilst also having an earwax blockage. The two together would add up to hearing loss that would probably be worse than only having 1 of the problems.

It’s impossible to say whether mixed hearing loss can be treated as so many things can go into its causes. Each problem has to be treated separately. There’s a good chance that the conductive portion of it can be treated, whilst the SNHL may require a hearing aid.

If you or a family member are experiencing hearing loss, we’d strongly recommend speaking to an audiologist. Our expert and friendly team are here to help! Book a consultation today by calling 01279 757077 or emailing us on