Hearing loss can affect anyone, and at any point during a person’s life. It affects different people to varying degrees and for different ear diagramreasons, and can be triggered by any number of environmental and biological factors.

Because hearing loss typically develops gradually, you may not notice the loss of subtle everyday sounds such as a ticking clock or a rustling newspaper. Before you realize it, you are missing sounds critical to effective communication.

Living with untreated loss means difficulties in conversations with loved ones, at social gatherings, and work settings. Untreated, hearing loss makes it challenging to keep up with everyday life. Treatment can lead to a better quality of life by improving personal relationships, reducing anger and frustration, and providing better control of one’s life.

Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is generally categorized by location—that is, what part of the ear is damaged—as well as by severity and age of onset. There are three main types of loss: conductive, sensorineural, and a combination of both, known as mixed hearing loss.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss

Area Where Conductive Hearing Loss Occurs


Conductive hearing loss results from sound waves being conducted through the outer and/or middle ear inefficiently. Sound waves are blocked or muffled before they can reach the inner ear, which is still functioning properly. This type is usually treated medically. These hearing losses are about 85% medically or surgically treatable and, when not able to be treated medically, respond very well to amplification or hearing aids. The cause may be as simple as cerumen (earwax) blockage of the ear canal, perforations of the ear drum, ear infections or genetic hearing disorders. For conductive hearing losses it is recommended that a patient first see their family physician or a physician that specializes in diseases of the Ear Nose and Throat, called an Otolaryngologist.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

sensorineural hearing loss location

Area Where Sensorineural Hearing Loss Occurs


Sensorineural hearing loss results from damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or the auditory nerve pathways that transmit sound vibrations to the brain. Sensorineural loss cannot be reversed and is usually not treatable through surgery or medication, but it can be significantly improved through amplification. When there is a sensorineural hearing loss it is common for a person to seek treatment 5-7 years after they realize there is a hearing difficulty. This occurs due to the fact that sensorineural hearing loss is often gradual, painless, and frequently undetectable until significant loss has occurred. One of the most common causes of sensorineural hearing loss is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss resulting from exposure to loud noises over a long period of time. While this type of hearing impairment is totally preventable, it may be due to occupational noise exposure such as construction, public works, flying or flight line noise are examples of noise that can be hazardous. These days occupation noise exposure in relatively controlled in the workplace, it can also be the result of recreational noise exposure. Recreational noise, such as motorcycles, race track noise, shooting, playing in bands, loud rock concerts and other more fun noise sources can be huge factor resulting a sensorineural hearing loss. Another major cause of sensorineural hearing impairment is the strong relationship between hearing loss and the aging process. According to the Deafness Research Foundation 18% of the population between ages 45-64 will have hearing loss. These percentages increase substantially as the person ages where 65-74 the percentage of hearing impaired goes to 30% after age 75, depending upon the study the percentage of hearing impaired individuals goes to 47% or or more. Sensorineural hearing loss in the 21st century is quite treatable with today’s hearing devices.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Area of mixed hearing loss

Areas Where Mixed Hearing Losses Occur


Mixed hearing loss is the combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, which can involve damage in the outer, middle, and inner ear simultaneously. An example of a mixed hearing loss is a patient that might have wax in the ear canal but also have a sensorineural hearing as well due to the aging process or noise exposure. These losses may be treated by procedures, medication and amplification.

If you suspect you or a loved one is struggling with hearing and understanding speech, be it from distances, close up, restaurants and meetings, or other situations, take our simple 5 minute hearing quiz and contact us for a hearing exam.



We promise our patients the following:

schedule an appointment today


Dr. Jan Liles and Dr. Susan Sheehy are audiologists, business partners, and great friends. In this, the first of many installments, you’ll meet the AuD Couple.

Listen to the Webcast


  • “Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!!!! In two visits you’ve brought my hearing levels close to perfect for me. Not exactly sure how, but the last session settings have me hearing the television at a near normal volume level without using the 4th ‘outdoor’ setting (which works perfectly as well). The fitting is comfortable, without any slippage of device or feedback. After nearly 4 years, I finally feel like the devices are worthwhile.”

  • “Dr. Jan Liles at Alabama Hearing Associates has demonstrated integrity, professional competence, patience, and a true interest in improving my ability to hear. She was candid from the beginning, acknowledging that I have a very difficult hearing loss and will never hear as I did before. She has gone the extra mile in attempting to improve my hearing, trying four different hearing aids over a period of several months, patiently listening to my observations about each one, and helping me to chose the hearing aid best suited for me. After the selection, she continues to work dilligently with me to make sure that I receive the maximum benefit from my hearing aids.”

  • “Progressive hearing loss has made it necessary for me to wear first one, now two hearing aids, since the mid-1980’s. During the past twenty years I have lived in various places from a small island 3,500 miles southwest of Hawaii, to New Mexico, to Colorado, and finally to Huntsville, Alabama. This has given me experience with a wide range of approaches to audiology. Dr. Susan Sheehy and Dr. Jan Liles are way ahead of others I’ve worked with. Their competence in and use of the fast-evolving hearing aid technology gives them a broad range of options to chose from. This competence backs up their determination to find the best hearing solution for each patient.”

  • “The audiologists at Alabama Hearing Associates are the most caring and helpful people I have had the privilege of knowing. From the very first day that I stepped into their office, their only concern was to help me. They wanted to be sure that the hearing aids I purchased were the right ones for me and that I would be happy with them. Unlike the previous company I purchased hearing aids from (which I can’t wear because they were not right for me), they did not try to sell me the most expensive aids. Their only concern was for me and my satisfaction with the hearing aids.”

  • “For the past 10 years I have had progressive hearing loss, and have worked with audiologists in Birmingham and Huntsville without success. Then Dr. Jan Liles came into my life and it all changed. She is knowledgeable, professional, caring, and compassionate. Dr. Liles immediately identified my needs and took time to make me a vital part of all decisions regarding the hearing aids that best suited my hearing loss. Dr. Liles has given me the ability to hear and understand what my grandchildren are saying and that is a very special gift! I am indebted to Dr. Liles and Dr. Sheehy for having the foresight to see the need in our community for their professional services.”

  • “I have worn hearing aids since I was nine years old. Until I met Jan and Susan at Alabama Hearing Associates, I had never dealt with such professional, caring, patient, and compassionate people. They have really helped me and I will be forever grateful to them!”

  • “I am extremely happy with the care I have received at Alabama Hearing Associates. I was impressed from the very beginning with the ability of Dr. Liles and Dr. Sheehy to be very professional and yet still relate to me on a personal level. I immediately felt comfortable and confident that I had chosen the right people to meet my hearing needs”