Starkey Blog

All Ears: What is low-frequency hearing loss?

Low-frequency hearing loss is most often related to “conductive” hearing loss that occurs with some sort of outer or middle ear problem.

To really get a grasp of the concept of low-frequency hearing loss, though, let’s discuss ALL types of hearing loss so that the difference is obvious.

To begin, it’s important to know that there are three major parts of the ear related to hearing: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. The outer ear is responsible for gathering sound and sending it to the middle ear. The middle ear is made of the eardrum and the middle ear bones that pass sound onto the inner ear. The inner ear holds the nerve cells and nerve fibers that send hearing information to the brain. 

High-frequency hearing loss is significantly more common 

The most common type of hearing loss is “sensorineural” hearing loss and it most often occurs first in the high-frequencies because of the aging process or exposure to loud sounds. As the name implies, sensorineural hearing loss is the direct result of insult to the inner ear (sensori-) or the nerves that carry information to and from the brain (-neural). 

Conductive hearing loss, though, usually occurs within the middle ear and is a sign that something physical is happening with the eardrum or within the middle ear space. This could be due to scarring of the eardrum, holes in the eardrum, negative pressure in the middle ear or fluid/infection of the middle ear. 

It could also be caused by a build-up of calcium on the middle ear bones – known as otosclerosis.

Conductive hearing loss is called such because sound is not being conducted to the inner ear properly.  Generally, it effects low frequencies first and can progress to affect all frequencies. Fortunately, most conductive hearing losses can be treated medically with little or no long-term effects on the hearing. Though much less common, there are other causes of low-frequency hearing losses that stem from the inner ear and the brain. 

A third type of hearing loss is “mixed” hearing loss which simply means that there is proof of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss in a patient’s hearing test.

If you’ve got hearing loss, consult with a hearing healthcare professional to find out what’s causing it and what your treatment options are. To find a hearing professional near you, call 1-888-908-1845 or click here

 

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By: Amanda Edwards, Au.D.

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