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Types of Hearing Loss in Children

What are the different types of hearing loss?

Three types of hearing loss are sensorineural, conductive, and mixed (sensorineural and conductive). These types of hearing loss can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired.

Sensorineural

A loss of function within the inner ear or with the connection to the brain. Causes of this type of hearing loss include:

  • Congenital factors (conditions present at birth) such as:

    • Infection by the mother with toxoplasmosis, rubella, cytomegalovirus, herpes, or syphilis

    • Diabetes in the mother

    • Complications associated with Rh factor in the blood

    • Genetic factors and syndromes the child has at birth

    • Hereditary (in the family)

  • Acquired (conditions not present at birth)

    • Loud noise exposure

    • Injury

    • Infections

    • Damage from certain medications that can be harmful to the ears

    • Low birth weight or prematurity

Conductive hearing loss

A problem in the outer or middle ear where sound waves are not sent to the inner ear correctly. Conductive hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss in children and is usually acquired. Factors that may cause this type of hearing loss are:

  • Congenital factors (conditions present at birth) such as:

    • Problems with the pinna (the outside of the ear)

    • Problems with the tympanic membrane (eardrum)

    • Problems with the external ear canal

    • Problems with the ossicles (the 3 tiny bones that deliver the sound waves to the middle ear)

  • Acquired (conditions not present at birth)

    • Excessive wax

    • Foreign bodies in the ear canal, such as beads or popcorn kernels

    • Tumors of the middle ear

    • Problems with the eustachian tube

    • Ear infections such as otitis media

    • Chronic ear infections with fluid in the middle ear

    • Perforation of the eardrum

Mixed hearing loss

This is a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. It involves damage to the outer, middle, or inner ear, or the auditory nerve.

Online Medical Reviewer: Akin, Louise, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 9/7/2014
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