Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed Hearing Loss

There are several different types of hearing loss, each with its own causes and characteristics – and it’s crucial to know which kind of hearing loss a person has in order for it to be effectively treated. Conductive, sensorineural and mixed hearing loss are the three main types of hearing loss – and in fact, mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. 

What is mixed hearing loss?

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of hearing problems that originate in both the inner and middle ear – that is, mixed hearing loss features both conductive hearing loss (caused by a problem in the ear canal, eardrum or middle ear) and sensorineural hearing loss (caused by damage to the inner ear or cochlea). The severity of mixed hearing loss can vary drastically and can affect one or both ears.

Mixed hearing loss causes

As mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, anything that can lead to either of these types of hearing loss might also be a contributing factor in a mixed hearing loss. Common hearing loss causes may include ageing, exposure to excessive noise (leading to noise-induced hearing loss), birth conditions and genetic factors, some medications, ear infections, direct trauma to the ear or head, earwax build-up, tumours and disease. For example, someone experiencing age-related hearing loss may have a build-up of earwax that becomes impacted, worsening their hearing loss.

Is mixed hearing loss permanent?

Unfortunately, the sensorineural hearing loss component of mixed hearing loss is permanent. However, conductive hearing loss may or may not be treatable depending on the cause – for example, if someone with age-related hearing loss has an ear infection that has led to mixed hearing loss, the hearing loss caused by the infection may get better after treatment with antibiotics.

Mixed hearing loss symptoms

As you might’ve guessed, mixed hearing loss symptoms are a combination of the symptoms of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss – and are not dissimilar to other common symptoms of hearing loss. From mild to profound mixed hearing loss, symptoms may include: 

  • Difficulty hearing speech
  • Feeling like people are mumbling or slurring, even though they’re not
  • Trouble hearing conversations in noisy settings
  • Needing to turn the TV up louder than usual
  • Pain or pressure in one or both ears
  • Feeling you can hear but not understand what’s being said
  • Ringing or buzzing in your ears (tinnitus)
  • Dizziness or feeling off balance

Mixed hearing loss treatment

Mixed hearing loss treatment usually involves a multi-factored approach that depends on the causes – and while mixed hearing loss can’t be completely cured (due to the permanence of sensorineural hearing loss), it can be managed both by dealing with the conductive component and using hearing devices to address the sensorineural element. In some circumstances, hearing devices may also be a non-invasive option to assist those living with conductive hearing loss.

Mixed hearing loss treatment often begins with seeing to the conductive component first, as this part may be completely treatable, depending on the cause – for example, clearing an earwax blockage, surgery for a growth, or medicine for an infection.

When it comes to the sensorineural component of mixed hearing loss, hearing aids are the most widely used solution. Hearing aids come in a wide range of styles, sizes and capabilities, and your Bay Audiology specialist can advise you on the most suitable option for you and your level of hearing loss. Cochlear implants may also be an effective treatment option.

Of course, prevention is always better than a cure, and there are many simple, practical ways to help prevent hearing loss and minimise your risk. Reducing the time you spend in loud environments (or wearing earplugs when it’s unavoidable), avoiding using cotton buds to clean your ear wax, and not turning the volume up too high on your personal listening devices are just a few of the easy ways you can help protect your ears and look after your hearing health.

When to seek help

If you notice any of the signs of hearing loss, it’s important to speak to a healthcare professional to identify the cause and prevent it from worsening. Whether you’re experiencing mixed hearing loss or another form of hearing loss, a Bay Audiology specialist can help you identify the cause and help you uncover the best treatment for you.

Get support and advice

Request an appointment

Book now

Take an online hearing check

Take the check

Find a clinic near you

Find a clinic