What is Mixed Hearing Loss?

Mixed hearing loss can be classified as a form of hearing problem that combines both sensorineural and conductive loss. If there has been damage to the ability of the middle or outer ear to pass sound waves, together with damage to the sound data processing ability of the auditory nerve, this is what is described as mixed hearing loss.

There is a variety of terms used to outline the range of mixed hearing loss types. For cases where the condition is present on a single side, it is termed unilateral mixed hearing loss, but if the loss is evidence on both sides, this is typically described as bilateral mixed hearing loss. In terms of severity, it can be described along a scale, from mild through to moderate, severe, profound or total.

The hearing loss is considered symmetrical if it affects both ears to the same extent, but hearing loss that differs in severity in each ear is described as asymmetrical. It is also sometimes described according to the frequencies that are affected, such as low frequency or high frequency.

Spotting the Signs of Mixed Hearing Loss

One of the most obvious symptoms of this condition is a reduced ability to detect sounds, particularly if they are faint. Given that mixed hearing combines sensorineural and conductive loss, it is possible that symptoms of both conditions could be affecting you. These can include pain in either or both of your ears, balance problems, vertigo or just a feeling that your voice sounds ‘wrong’.

The Causes of Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss is the combined effect of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Those conditions may be caused by the same factor, for example, head trauma, or by separate problems.

When it comes to sensorineural loss of hearing, the main factor is ageing. This type of loss is called presbycusis, and this usually develops through a period of years. Conductive hearing loss is usually down to events that damage the structure of either the middle or outer ear. A hearing specialist will be able to provide a full assessment of what is causing your hearing loss.

Diagnosing Mixed Hearing Loss

The most typical means of diagnosing mixed hearing loss is the use of audiometry along with examination of the nose, ears, neck and throat together with a full patient history. The details of their history as well as a physical exam are used to identify the presence of structural issues, and the audiometry test looks at how severe the hearing loss is.

Audiometry is a form of test carried out by a specialist using a piece of equipment called an audiometer. The findings of this test are known as an audiogram and are analysed by the hearing specialist to determine the severity and type of hearing loss a patient has.

Treating Mixed Hearing Loss

Dependent on what the underlying cause may be, it is often possible to treat the conductive aspect of mixed hearing loss through surgical or medical techniques. The sensorineural part will usually not be treatable in this way, although there are one or two exceptions. The typical treatment with mixed hearing loss will be a combination of surgical or medical technique and hearing aid sound amplification. Each example of mixed hearing loss, however, is unique. To find the best treatment solutions for you, it is essential to consult a hearing specialist who can correctly diagnose you.

The good news is that with professional guidance along with a carefully considered intervention plan, it is entirely possible to reduce the effects of mixed hearing loss, enabling you to go about your daily life and pursue your career and leisure pastimes fully.