Hearing and Hearing Loss Types of hearing loss

Each hearing loss is unique. Permanent hearing loss in young children can be:

  • congenital (present from birth) or acquired (onset is after birth)
  • unilateral (one ear affected) or bilateral (both ears affected)
  • progressive (gets worse over time).

Hearing loss is usually defined by type and degree. There are three broad types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural and mixed.

Click on the headings below to see a description of each type of hearing loss.

  • Outer ear
  • Middle ear
  • Inner ear

Area affected: outer or middle ear.

Causes: blockage of the ear canal (ear wax, foreign objects), infection of the ear canal, fluid in the middle ear ('glue ear'), congenital malformations of the ear canal or middle ear bones.

Permanance: usually not permanent, but can fluctuate in severity.


Area affected: inner ear.

Causes: damage to or malfunction of either the cochlea, hearing nerve or further along the auditory pathway to the brain.

Permanance: usually permanent. There is a reduction in the loudness and clarity of the sounds heard.


Area affected: outer ear and/or middle ear as well as inner ear.

Causes: a mix of conductive and sensorineural causes.

Permanance: see permanence of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. The conductive component in mixed hearing losses can usually be overcome but the sensorineural deficit will remain.

See the Related Links on the left of the screen for more on the causes of hearing loss in children.