Conductive Vs. Sensorineural Hearing Loss Test: Everything You Need to Know

If you are experiencing hearing loss symptoms, you may have heard your doctor mention that your hearing loss is either sensorineural or conductive. Because these two kinds of hearing loss have different causes and treatments, it is important to pinpoint which one is responsible for your symptoms. Doctors can choose from various hearing loss tests to distinguish between conductive and sensorineural hearing loss and gain crucial details about how your ears and brain are working together.

Conductive vs. Sensorineural Hearing Loss: What’s the Difference?

According to NIH MedLine Plus, sensorineural hearing loss results from structural problems in the ear or issues with the nerves responsible for hearing regulation. Sensorineural hearing loss is often permanent. It can occur at any age and lead to hearing difficulties ranging from mild to severe, depending on the patient. Common causes include genetics, exposure to loud noise, or ear injuries.

Conductive hearing loss occurs when a blockage prevents sound transmission from the outer and middle ear to the inner ear, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Sound blocking can happen due to fluid buildup, ear infections,excessive ear wax, a foreign object within the ear, or bone abnormalities. If doctors can remove the blockage source through surgery or with medications, conductive hearing loss is highly treatable.

How Each Is Tested

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Doctors rarely prescribe just one type of hearing test. Most commonly, your doctor will recommend a series of hearing loss tests that together will provide a complete picture of your ear health.

“Typically, testing is done via both air and bone conduction,” Oliver Adunka, MD, an otolaryngologist at Ohio State University College of Medicine tells ishonest Connect to Care. “Air conduction testing evaluates the actual hearing using the middle ear mechanisms, and bone conduction testing bypasses this and tests the inner ear directly. It is mostly the combination of tests that matters rather than a single test,” Adunka says.

When screening for hearing loss, your doctor may begin by using pure-tone testing to evaluate your sensitivity to sounds at different wavelengths. This test is often followed by a bone conduction test. If your hearing is better during the bone conduction test, it is likely an obstruction is causing conductive hearing loss, according to UCSF Health.

Tuning fork tests like the Weber or Rinne test can help find the location of the hearing loss and determine if it is conductive or sensorineural, reports University of Iowa Health Care. Doctors can get additional information about your hearing loss from tympanometry and auditory brainstem response testing.

Looking at a complete set of hearing loss test results allows doctors to diagnose problems like infections, tumors, or foreign bodies in your ears, according to University of Iowa Health Care. If you are experiencing hearing loss, talk to your doctor about receiving a comprehensive hearing exam.

Hearing Loss Can Be Treated and Managed.

In many cases, hearing loss is a treatable condition. It is worth taking the time out to get the answers and treatment you or your loved one deserves. Don’t wait. Start today.

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