Hearing loss can develop right from birth as well. Check out the causes, symptoms and treatment for this condition from an expert. Read on.
Hearing impairment or hearing loss means complete or partial inability to hear sounds. The symptoms of hearing loss can be mild, moderate and severe as well. A person having mild hearing impairment might face major problems in understanding speech and especially if there is a lot of noise. However, people who have moderate deafness may need a hearing aid to listen to any kind of sound. Some people are severely deaf and have to understand through lip-reading to communicate. While those who are completely deaf can hear nothing at all and can only talk through sign language. The inner ear is important and has some of the most delicate bones in the body, and damage to the eardrum or middle ear can cause hearing loss and deafness through a lot of ways. Even hearing loss and deafness are different as the former means reduced ability to hear sounds, while deafness is cannot understand speech through hearing at all.
World Hearing Day is held on 3rd March every year to spread awareness on how to prevent deafness and hearing loss and promote ear and hearing care all over the world. On World Hearing Day 2021, the aim is to show timely and effective medical attention can make sure that people with hearing loss can do things with their full full potential. The goal is to draw attention to all the options available for this condition. Loss of hearing can be in one or both the ears, and also ranges from being mild to advanced. Hearing loss can be a problem since birth and can also start developing in old age. So, on World Hearing Day, Onlymyhealth editorial team spoke to Dr. Shashidhar TB, Head - Surgery (ENT), Artemis Hospitals, Gurgaon, about the types, symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment and complications of hearing loss.
Hearing loss types
1. Conductive hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss refers to the vibrations are not passing through from the outer ear to the inner ear, specifically the cochlea. This type of hearing loss can be caused by too much build-up of earwax, an ear infection with inflammation, fluid buildup, dysfunction of the ossicles and a damaged eardrum. Ear infections can leave scar tissue, which can also affect eardrum function. The ossicles may become defective due to infection, trauma, or in a condition known as ankylosis.
2. Sensorineural hearing loss
Hearing loss is caused by dysfunction of the inner ear, the cochlea, auditory nerve, or even brain damage. This kind of hearing loss occurs generally because of damaged hair cells in the cochlea. As we grow older, hair cells lose some of their function, and hearing deteriorates. Long-term exposure to loud noises, especially high-frequency sounds, are some common reasons for hair cell damage. Damaged hair cells cannot be replaced or recovered from. Sensorineural total deafness may occur due to congenital abnormalities, inner ear infections, or head trauma.
3. Mixed hearing loss
As it says with the name mixed hearing loss, this is a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Long-term ear infections can damage both the eardrum and the ossicles. Therefore, a surgical procedure is needed to restore hearing, but it might not always be effective.
Hearing loss symptoms
According to Dr. Shashidhar, here are the 4 main symptoms of hearing loss:
1. Unable to understand
The most common symptom of hearing loss is being unable to understand what the other person is saying. Muffling of speech and other sounds is also a sign of loss of hearing. This inability to understand can interfere with your day to day life.
2. Asking people to repeat again and again
Along with not being able to understand, another sign of hearing loss is asking people to repeat what they are saying again and again. This can be due to partial or even complete inability to hear the other person.
3. Noise in the ears
Listening to loud noise for a long time can overwork the cells and cause hearing loss. So, another symptom of loss of hearing is a continuous noise in the ears. There might be a persistent or recurring humming in the ears. You need to visit the doctor if this keeps happening.
4. Blocked sensation in ears
Your ear might feel clogged or there can be blocked sensation in ears as an indication of hearing loss. Muffled hearing and blocking is also one of the common symptoms in hearing loss patients.
The other symptoms of hearing loss include:
- Withdrawal from conversations
- Avoiding social situations
- Needing to increase the television's volume
Hearing loss causes
As per Dr. Shashidhar, the main causes of loss of hearing are:
1. Fluid in the ears
During or after the initial infection, fluid can build up in the air-filled space behind the eardrum, which is known as otitis media with effusion. This build-up can reduce movement of the eardrum and middle ear bones, leading to trouble hearing.
Aging and exposure to loud noise may also cause damage on the hair or nerve cells in the cochlea, the part that helps in transporting sound signals to the brain. Ageing is also one of the common causes of hearing loss.
3. Ear wax
Earwax can also block the ear canal and stop sound waves from going into the inner ear. Earwax removal can help in recovering from hearing loss. It is not always advised to remove the wax using an earbud at home, but it is best to visit an ENT to get this done professionally and carefully. It is not a wise choice to remove earwax using any objects like keys.
4. Ear infection
Ear infection and abnormal bone growths or tumors are also factors behind loss of hearing. In the outer or middle ear, any of these can cause hearing loss. So, having any kind of ear infection is also one of the causes of hearing loss.
5. Ruptured eardrum
Ruptured eardrum can also cause hearing loss. Loud sounds or noise, sudden changes in pressure, touching your eardrum using an object unnecessarily and an infection can also cause your eardrum to rupture, which can lead to loss your hearing.
Hearing loss diagnosis and treatment
If there is a sudden loss of hearing, you should visit the doctor immediately for medical attention. A physical exam and general screening tests are conducted for hearing loss diagnosis. According to Dr. Shashidhar, there are mobile applications available to use by yourself to help with mild or moderate hearing loss. During the more detailed diagnosis tests conducted by an audiologist, you have to wear earphones and hear sounds and words in each ear. All the tones are repeated at different bass levels to find the quietest sound you are able to hear.
Earwax removal should be the primary thing to cope up with hearing loss. This course of treatment is only effective if the cause of loss of hearing is wax buildup. Otherwise, surgical measures and hearing aids can also help such patients. Some types of hearing loss can be treated with surgery, including damages of the ear drum or bones of hearing. If your hearing loss is because of any damage to your inner ear, a hearing aid can be useful. Even cochlear implants can provide a limited amount of recovery in severe hearing loss cases.
So, these were the types, symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment and complications of hearing loss by Dr. Shashidhar. On World Hearing Day 2021, we observe the day to spread awareness on how to prevent hearing loss and deafness, and promote hearing care. One should take proper care of their ears. There is an infant hearing test that should be done to make sure that the baby does not have a hearing problem since birth.
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