Mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, which means there is damage in both the outer or middle ear and in the inner ear. This type of hearing loss ranges in severity from mild to profound. For people with mixed hearing loss, sounds can be both softer in volume and more difficult to understand.
Mixed hearing loss is caused by a combination of conductive damage in the outer or middle ear and sensorineural damage in the inner ear (cochlea) or hearing/auditory nerve. Genetic factors, overexposure to loud noise, certain medications and the normal ageing process can lead to sensorineural hearing loss. Birth defects, diseases, infections, tumours or masses and head injuries are all possible causes of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
If the hearing loss is mostly conductive, speech tends to sound understandable, but only if it’s loud enough and there isn’t too much background noise. If the hearing loss is mostly sensorineural, there may be difficulty understanding speech, even when it seems loud enough.
Depending on the degree and make-up of mixed hearing loss, it may be treated with medications, surgery, hearing aids or an implantable bone conduction hearing system.
A Baha bone conduction implant is an effective treatment for mixed hearing loss because it totally bypasses the conductive element of the hearing loss and needs only to address the sensorineural element. Air conduction hearing devices must compensate for both the conductive and the sensorineural elements. Studies also suggest that Baha improves speech understanding in mixed hearing loss.
A health professional can talk you through the options and help you make the most informed decision. If you don’t already have someone to speak to, we can help you find a clinic close to you. When considering what to do, the most important thing is to have all the information.
The ears may appear to be just a dangling appendage on your head but they are actually intricate organs responsible for both hearing and balance. The ear has three major sections:
1) the outer ear, which includes the earlobe and ear canal
2) the middle ear, comprised of the eardrum and the little ear bones and muscles beyond the drum
3) the inner ear, which is where things get really interesting
This inner ear portion has a bony structure that is divided into the cochlea, the semicircular canals and the vestibule. Together, the latter two are constantly working with the rest of your body to adjust and sense your orientation in relation to the pull of gravity on earth. This is what’s known as balance.
The cochlea transmits the sound vibrations from the ear canal and middle ear into pitches when the sound travels over tiny “hair” cells inside of it. The pitches are then converted into electrical impulses that travel to the brain via the cochlear nerve.
This branch of science that studies how humans perceive and use sound is called audiology. Since it deals with the body, the field is largely focused in the health care industry where professionals are involved with identifying, diagnosing, treating and evaluating hearing disorders. Some of these professionals have a Doctor title, as 18 states require a Doctor of Audiology (Au.D) degree to practice.
All are licensed in the state where he or she practices and must complete coursework at an institution accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA), a division of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
There are many other career tracks people in this field of study find rewarding. Some are involved in developing and designing listening devices while others focus solely on dispensing or selling said technologies. Researchers in this field are always in need in order to study and test decibel levels that are potentially damaging to the ears. In a world that’s increasingly noisy, qualified audiology specialists will always be needed in the science of balance and hearing.