Hearing impairment or deafness is a condition where a person loses the ability to hear. If you are suffering from partial or total hearing loss, you are not alone. We will help you to improve your hearing.
What is hearing loss or deafness?
A partial or complete decline in a person’s ability to hear sound from one or both ears is known as deafness or hearing impairment. Although a common problem, its major shortcoming is that it occurs gradually over time.
It practically affects a person’s quality of life and emotional state and is hence, often referred as an invisible disability. Unfortunately, people suffering from this condition are also prone to depression, anxiety, social isolation and other health conditions.
It is important to understand that hearing disability is different for different people and even has different categories. It ranges from mild to severe to profound.
Mild Hearing Loss is when a person finds it difficult to keep up with soft conversations in loud/noisy surroundings. Moderate is when a person cannot listen to the moderate speech in noisy surroundings. Then there is Severe deafness, wherein a person cannot hear loud speech without the usage of hearing aid. The last level is Profound Hearing Loss, which means difficulty in hearing even with the usage of hearing aids. The person at this stage relies mostly on lip-reading and sign language.
Quick statistics about hearing impairment & deafness
In India, alone more than 1 million cases of deafness are recorded per year. The number is high in global countries also. In the United States, more than 200 000 issues of this common health issues are recorded annually. World Health Organization reports says that 5% of world population has total or significant loss of hearing. For the age group of 65 and above almost one third are suffering from this disease. Most of them are residing in South Asia, the Asia Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa regions.
Hearing loss causes can be the natural outcome of ageing. Some causes are reversible, like ageing, noise, alcohol and tobacco, cholesterol, Some diseases and infections wax buildup in the ear canal.
Ageing: It is the most common cause of deafness. One out of three people age 65-74 has some level of hearing loss. Common conditions that can increase the risk of deafness in elderly people are high blood pressure, diabetes or the use of certain medications harmful to the ear.
Noise: Another common reason is exposure to noise. This noise can come from our work, noisy motors or loud music at rock concerts, nightclubs, discos and from stereos. The increasing use of portable MP3 players is increasing the effects of deafness. Noise wears down hearing if it’s loud or continuous. Louder sounds cause damage in a shorter period of time. Many people are unaware of the presence of environmental sound at damaging levels, or of the level at which sound becomes harmful.
Genetics: Hearing impairment can be inherited. Your genetic can be also a reason for ear damage. When looking at the genetics of deafness, there are 2 different forms, syndromic and nonsyndromic. Syndromic deafness occurs while there are other signs or medical problems in a person. Nonsyndromic deafness occurs when there are no other signs or medical problems identity with a person other than deafness.
Medications: Medications can impair hearing or balance. More than 200 drugs and chemicals have a track record of cause hearing.These medications are considered ototoxic.The link between NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and hearing loss tends to be greater in women.
Illnesses: Illness such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes are also one of the major cause of hearing loss.
Alcohol or tobacco: Excessive drinking damages the auditory cortex in the brain, affecting the way your brain processes sound. The high levels of alcohol can create a toxic environment which can damage the delicate hair cells in the cochlea. Even moderate drinkers may risk nerve damage and hearing loss.
Ear infection: Hearing loss occurs due to many types of ear infection. It blocks ear canals and lessens hearing. Though it can be treated with medications, if you neglect it for too long, it may be the cause of permanent hearing loss.
Physical trauma: There can be damage either to the ear itself or to the brain centres. Trauma, especially a skull fracture or punctured eardrum, can damage your ear and put your ear a serious hearing loss. People who face any head injury are exposed to \ hearing loss or tinnitus, either temporary or permanent.
Hearing loss symptoms
If you experience any of the following signs of deafness, you should contact your hearing health professionals or and have your hearing tested.
Signs and symptoms of hearing loss may include:
- Muffling of speech and other sounds
- Avoidance of some social settings
- Facing issue in hearing T.V. or hearing at very high volume.
- Frequently asking others to speak more slowly, clearly and loudly
- Communication difficulties in noisy environments or social gathering
- You no longer hear your watch ticking, water running or birds singing
- Difficulties in hearing someone calling to you from behind or from another room.
Types of Hearing Loss
In the case of hearing disability, treatment can help but this condition can’t be cured. The problems can be categorized based on which part of the ear it affects. It is necessary to understand the causes as well as types of hearing loss to make the right choice while choosing a hearing aid. Let us understand its various types.
1. Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs from damage to an individual’s inner ear (cochlea) or neural areas of the auditory system. In some cases, the cause cannot be determined. It is generally irreversible and permanent. The most common type of hearing loss, sensorineural or SNHL, results in a loss of loudness as well as a lack of clarity.
Those who are diagnosed with this type of hearing disability have to wear ear machines or other devices to improve hearing. Sensorineural deafness is becoming more common due to prolonged exposure to excessively loud noise from work environment or from listening to loud music.
This type of hearing disorders can be caused genetically and in such case, a person can lose their hearing ability due to head injuries. There are lots of reasons why this hearing loss happens. It can happen from birth or might occur early or late in life. Some reasons can also be smoking, diseases, and even taking certain medications.
The most common indicator of having it in both ears is; inability to understand speech clearly even when it is loud enough. A person would find it difficult to understand all types of high-pitched even the chirping of birds. Whereas, when it occurs in one ear, a person has trouble locating sounds or hearing background noise.
2. Conductive hearing loss
A conductive hearing loss is a disorder where the ear ability to conduct sound into the inner ear is blocked. Sound passes down the ear canal to the eardrum and through the middle ear, where the sound is transmitted across the middle ear by the three bones called the ossicles to the inner ear.
In some cases, a conductive hearing loss can be temporary. Depending on the specific cause of the problem, medication or surgery can help.In the middle ear conductive hearing loss occurs due to chronic middle ear infections or glue ear, where fluids fill up the middle ear so that the eardrum cannot move.
3. Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed Hearing Loss goes literally by its name “mixed” and is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. It indicates that there is damage in outer, middle and inner part of the ear at the same time. Mixed hearing loss generally ranges from mild to profound severity.
For people diagnosed with this problem, sounds can be both softer in volume and more difficult to understand. An example can be that when a person who already has a sensorineural loss gets a middle ear infection, and the two types of loss collide to create a greater hearing damage.
In case the deafness is more conductive, sound tends to sound understandable, but only if it is loud enough without too much background noise. If the disability is mostly sensorineural, the person may face difficulty understanding sound, even when it is loud enough.
4. Neural Hearing Loss
The least common type of hearing disorder is the neural hearing loss. It takes place when the auditory nerve is missing or transmits information to the brain incorrectly. In order to diagnose this type of deafness correctly, it needs in-depth testing and might include radiographic imaging. It is not possible to identify the exact location of neural hearing disorder using the current tests, thus frequent hearing monitoring is required for its.
Because of its complex nature, in some cases amplification is not recommended by the doctors. For instance, sometimes an individual will be able to hear properly at normal intensity but may continue to have difficulty understanding speech. Making sounds louder with hearing aids does not improve speech understanding in these cases. Any individual with neural hearing loss will hear more trouble in the background noise than it actually has.
Hearing loss prevention
Avoid damaging noises: If the sound is too loud then it can cause serious damage to your ears. Sounds from motorcycles, concert speakers, power tools like saws and drills, earphones, and more are all loud enough to make a difference. And the higher the noise level means the greater the risk of hearing loss. So try to avoid any type of loud noise and use ear protection.
Wear hearing protection: Use ear protection such as earplugs or earmuffs. There are several professions which can put you at risk for hearing disorders on a daily basis, such as construction workers, paramedics, musicians, firefighters, military personnel or manufacturing and factory jobs and many more.
Earplugs are a type of hearing protection available which available at your pharmacy. Earmuffs or noise-cancellation earphones can be purchased at sporting goods or safety equipment stores. If you wear earplugs or Earmuffs frequently, which can be made to fit comfortably and stop loud noise from getting to the ear.
Be a Quiet Enforcer: Before buying any product compare dB rating. And if it’s too loud in the movie theatre, restaurant, or any other place you go often, ask the manager to turn it down.
Don’t Smoke: Excess alcohol or tobacco affect your brain and make you mare likely to lose your hearing. So try to quit or avoid breathing secondhand smoke.
Remove earwax: Your ear canal produces a waxy oil called cerumen, which is more commonly known as earwax. When you clean your ears, you can accidentally push the wax deeper, causing a blockage. Cotton swabs, ear candling, and irrigators are all examples of devices people use to clean the wax that can cause the wax to become more embedded. Cleaning hearing aid is a must thing to do. You should take great caution when trying to treat earwax buildup at home. If the problem persists, visit your doctor.
Get a hearing test: If you have some hearing loss, you can avoid getting more damage by steering clear of loud noises. Visit a hearing care center routinely for hearing test. If your test indicates you already have some amount of disorder, you can begin taking action to prevent it from getting worse. If you need hearing aids, your hearing professional can discuss the best options for your hearing loss, lifestyle, and budget.
Hearing Loss in Different Ages
Age-related hearing disability is also known as Presbyterians. It is the loss of hearing that occurs gradually in all of us as we grow older. This is the most common conditions between the older and elderly adults. It affects both the ears equally. The loss is slow, steady and occurs with age, so people who haven’t yet been diagnosed don’t realize that they’ve already lost some of their ability to hear. The loss is always permanent but not life-threatening.
One of the symptoms of age-related hearing problems is having a difficulty to hear the voice of women. This is because their voices are high in pitch compared to men. Other symptoms include; voices sounding mumbled or overly loud, experiencing a ringing in the ears along with headaches or dizziness.
Some major causes
- Certain medical conditions (high blood pressure or diabetes)
- Family history (age-related hearing loss sometimes run in families)
- Repeated exposure to loud noises
- Ototoxicity medication
- Certain medicines, such as chemotherapy drugs for cancer
Doctors recommend cochlear implant in some cases, which means a small hearing device is surgically implanted into the ear of the person diagnosed. They don’t restore normal hearing but somewhat improve loud hearing.
Born with a Hearing Disability
The term congenital hearing loss means the hearing disorder is present by birth. Doctors these days advise that all newborns babies should be given a hearing test prior discharge from the hospital. The symptoms can be seen during different stages of the child’s age such as; a newborn baby may not flinch when there is a loud noise nearby or after a few months, the child still does not respond to familiar voices. Congenital hearing loss can be caused by genetic or nongenetic factors.
One of the following two factors causes this type of hearing loss:
Genetic factors (hereditary) cause more than 50% of all hearing loss in children. It can be present at birth or develop later in life. Most genetic hearing loss can be described as autosomal recessive or autosomal dominant. In easy words, hearing loss may be inherited from one or both parents.This type of inheritance pattern accounts for about 70% of all genetic hearing loss.Genetic syndromes have a group of signs and symptoms that together indicate a specific disease:
- Down syndrome
- Usher syndrome
- Treacher Collins syndrome
- Crouzon syndrome
- Alport syndrome
- Waardenburg syndrome
In about 25% of cases of deafness, there is a non-genetic cause that can be identified. Nongenetic factors that are known to cause congenital hearing loss. It is most often caused by illness or trauma before birth or during the birth process.Their causes include:
- Low birth weight
- Maternal diabetes
- Lack of oxygen (anoxia)
- Birth injuries/complications
- Complications associated with the Rh factor in the blood.
- Toxins (alcohol or drug) consumed by the mother during pregnancy
Acquired in Early Childhood
There are many cases when a child is affected by deafness as they grow up. These disorders are not present at birth but identified at a later date. Approximately two to three children per 1,000 will be identified as having childhood acquired or late-onset hearing loss.
You can observe a certain behavior pattern in children having hearing disorder: such as; being sad, angry, frustrated all the time, having low self-esteem or being completely shy/quiet. This behavior is caused due to picking up by siblings or peers that they have a problem or by simply realizing on their own that they cannot communicate as well as others.
Family support and normal environment at home can help the child to become comfortable. It will also enable the child to express properly, which will further help in providing better hearing solutions.
Some major causes for this type of disability:
- A perforated eardrum
- Otosclerosis or Meniere’s diseases, which are progressive
- Infections like meningitis, measles, mumps or a whooping cough
- Taking ototoxic medications
- A serious head injury
- Exposure to loud noise, causing noise-induced hearing loss
- Untreated or frequent otitis media (ear infections)
- Exposure to secondhand smoke
Hearing Impairments in Young People
Lifestyle is one of the major reasons for hearing disorder in young people. Every young adult or teen is into activities like; listening music at full volume, loud noise games, concerts, movie theatres etc. Believe it or not, these are certainly putting their hearing power at risk.
Researchers conclude that if young adults frequently use headphones at a loud volume, they should be prepared to deal with ringing in their ears or hearing loss as a result. With increasing rates of hearing loss comes academic challenges, a growing problem for young people. In higher education, you have to advocate for yourself. Be ready to make recommendations of what you need. Be proactive.
There are many ways to prevent noise-induced hearing loss in young people and teens. Some of these include:
- Use high-quality earplugs that transfer sound into your inner ear more effectively or use headphones instead.
- Fixed the time and volume range to listening music. Follow 60/60 rule, no more than 60 minutes nor above 60% of maximum volume.
- If music is coming outside from you earbuds means it’s very loud.
- Take some break from listening music.
- Always wear earplugs at concerts and loud sporting events.
Just remember, prevention is better than cure. Taking small steps towards reducing the likelihood of hearing loss now, will only benefit you in future.
Hearing Loss in Old People
It is one of the most common conditions affecting older and elderly adults. Approximately one in three people between the ages of 60 and 70 have a partial or significant form of hearing loss. Nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.
The age-related disorders most often occur in both ears, affecting them equally. Because the loss is gradual, if you have age-related issues you may not realize that you’ve lost some of your ability to hear.
There are many causes of age-related hearing loss. Most commonly, it arises from changes in the inner ear as we age, but it can also result from changes in the middle ear. Certain medical conditions and medications may also play a role. Having trouble hearing can make it hard to understand and follow a doctor’s advice, to respond to warnings, and to hear doorbells and alarms. It can also make it hard to enjoy talking with friends and family. All of this can be frustrating, embarrassing, and even dangerous.
There are many reasons losing your hearing in old age:
- Conditions that are more common in older people, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, can contribute to hearing loss.
- The noise-induced hearing loss is caused by long-term exposure to sounds that are either too loud or last too long.
- Age-related hearing loss can be caused by abnormalities of the outer ear or middle ear.
There is no permanent cure for hearing the loss in old people but there is a treatment to improve the quality of life of people suffering from it. The following can be of help:
- Hearing aids
- Telephone amplifiers
- Learning sign language
- Lip reading training
- Usage of visual cues to aid communication
- Prevent excess ear wax
- Cochlear implant
Treatment is largely based on the extent to which the hearing loss exists. This can be evaluated through a hearing test. Regularly consulting with your doctor about your specific health needs is recommended.