OUTER EAR PROBLEMS can include wax buildup or swimmer's ear. These problems are easily treated by your doctor. A hearing loss caused by an outer ear problem is called a "conductive loss".
MIDDLE EAR PROBLEMS are also treated by your doctor. They include what is commonly called an “ear infection” or “otitis media”, which is a buildup of fluid around the tiny bones. This is very common among young children but can also occur in adults. It is commonly treated with medicine or the surgical insertion of “tubes” through the ear drum.
Other middle ear problems include: perforation (a hole) in the ear drum; otosclerosis, which is a buildup of bony growth around the third tiny bone (the stapes); cholesteatoma, which is a growth of skin cells and cholesterol in the middle ear space.
Most middle ear problems are treated effectively with medicine or surgery. If hearing loss remains after medical treatment, hearing aids can help. A hearing loss caused by a middle ear problem is also called a “conductive” hearing loss.
INNER EAR PROBLEMS include damage to the tiny hair cells because of noise exposure. Disturbances in how the nerve transmits due to the aging process, head injuries, and certain medications that are toxic to the ear can also cause inner ear problems.
The hearing loss that results from inner ear problems is called “sensorineural” or “nerve damage” and cannot be medically or surgically fixed. Sensorineural hearing losses can almost always be helped with the use of hearing aids.
People of all ages can have a hearing loss, but hearing loss is most common in older adults. (see Fast Facts)