What is it?
Mixed hearing loss has elements of both conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss. This means there is damage to both the outer and inner ear. The outer ear cannot conduct sound properly to the inner ear, and the inner ear can’t process the sound to be sent to the brain. The sensorineural component (inner ear) is usually permanent, but the conductive hearing loss (outer ear) may not be. Many people with mixed hearing loss experience sounds as very soft in volume and difficult to understand.
Mixed hearing loss commonly occurs when the ear sustains some sort of trauma. It can also happen gradually over time when one hearing loss is compounded by another. For example, an individual with a long-standing conductive hearing loss might experience presbycusis as they age. Alternatively, an individual with sensorineural hearing loss may have a temporary mixed hearing loss due to wax impaction.
Symptoms of mixed hearing loss
The symptoms of a mixed hearing loss are reduced hearing in one or both ears (bilateral mixed hearing loss).
Treatment of mixed hearing loss
- Hearing aids can often help people with mixed hearing loss. Behind-the-ear (BTE) style hearing aids may be the prescribed option, because their additional power is sometimes needed to address severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss.
- Cochlear implants are also an option that can be used to address the sensorineural aspect of mixed hearing loss.
- Conductive hearing loss can sometimes be treated with surgery, particularly in the case of a tumor or blockage.