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What is Sensorineural and Conductive Hearing Loss?

Jun 01st, 2024 | by Nicole Romei

Nicole Romei

June 01st, 2024

What is Sensorineural and Conductive Hearing Loss?

To understand sensorineural and conductive hearing loss, it is important to understand the structure of the ear. The ear is made up of three main parts – the outer, middle and inner ear. The outer ear is the part you see and the ear canal (where ear wax builds up). The middle ear begins at the tympanic membrane (i.e. the ear drum). The middle ear is an air filled space that the eustachian tube leads from, which contains the three ossicle bones; the malleus (hammer), incus (anvil) and stapes (stirrup). These bones help conduct sound from the ear drum to the inner ear. The inner ear contains the vestibular system (responsible for balance) and the cochlear (responsible for hearing). The cochlear contains fluid and hair-like cells, which help conduct the sound to the nerve responsible for hearing (the vestibulocochlear nerve).


What Are the Differences and Similarities Between Sensorineural vs. Conductive Hearing Loss?

Sensorineural Hearing LossConductive Hearing Loss
• Occurs in the inner ear
• The heard sound has been able to travel to the inner ear, but the inner ear hasn’t been able to process the sound due to either:
• Damage hair cells in the cochlear
• Damage to the auditory nerve

• Occurs in the middle and/or outer ear
• It interrupts the heard sound from reaching the inner ear
Most Common Causes:
• Age
• Noise exposure
Most Common Causes:
• Fluid in the middle ear
• Wax build up
• Structural damage (e.g. perforated eardrum, damage to the ossicle bones)

Both types of hearing loss can co-occur and can also be caused by:

  • Genetics and genetic conditions
  • Congenital conditions (e.g. congenital cytomegalovirus)
  • Infections
  • Head trauma

What Are Some Commonly Asked Questions Regarding Hearing Loss?

A diagnosis of hearing loss in children for some parents can bring forth strong emotions and lots of questions. It is important to acknowledge that, like with any major diagnosis, as parents, in certain moments, we can feel stressed and maybe even a little helpless. If you have any of the questions below, hopefully, you will find some of these answers helpful.

Are there any devices to help my child?

Yes. Some devices that assist in hearing include hearing aids, bone conductors, and cochlear implants. It is important to speak with your healthcare team, including the audiologist, about this to help inform you on what device may be best for your child.

Which professionals can be involved with my child’s hearing journey?

Some professionals involved can be (but are not exclusively) audiologists, specialist doctors, nurses, teachers of the deaf, deaf educators and allied health professionals such as speech pathologists.

What are some of the treatment options for hearing loss?

As mentioned above, a hearing device can assist with hearing loss, but the device chosen may depend on the level and type of hearing loss. It is important to discuss this with your healthcare team and audiologist.

Speech therapy may be encouraged to assist with helping your child meet their communication milestones. This may include speech sound therapy, introducing new modes of communication (e.g. sign language, communication devices) and language therapy. Speech therapy will vary based on your child’s needs at the time of treatment.

Are there organisations I can contact regarding my child’s hearing loss?

Yes. Some organistions include:

About the Author

Nicole is a Speech Pathologist at NAPA Centre Sydney who has immersed herself in the area of hearing loss at Aurora School, a school for the Deaf and Deaf-Blind. At this school, she worked in Early Intervention, visiting families throughout Victoria in their homes. She is also a retired Nurse, bringing a wealth of experience in various medical fields, offering a unique perspective to her Speech Pathology practice. Outside work, Nicole enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, reading, crafts, and exercising.

About NAPA Centre

At NAPA, we are committed to helping children lead their happiest, healthiest lives by providing the best and most innovative paediatric therapy methods from around the world all under one roof. Let your child’s journey begin today by contacting us to learn more.

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