A hearing impairment is a hearing loss that prevents a person from totally receiving sounds through the ear. There are four types of hearing loss:
• Conductive: caused by diseases or obstructions in the outer or middle ear that usually affect all frequencies of hearing. A hearing aid generally helps a person with a conductive hearing loss.
• Sensorineural: results from damage to the inner ear. This loss can range from mild to profound and often affects certain frequencies more than others. Sounds are often distorted, even with a hearing aid.
• Mixed: occurs in both the inner and outer or middle ear.
• Central: results from damage to the central nervous system.
HOW IS HEARING IMPAIRMENT DIAGNOSED?
An ENT would diagnose the problem by doing a thorough checkup of your ears. He/ she would also conduct some hearing tests to check how audible your eardrums are.
HOW IS HEARING IMPAIRMENT TREATED?
Immunization against diseases like rubella and H.influenzae may help prevent hearing impairment due to these diseases. Hearing aids and other assistive devices help people manage hearing impairment. In some cases surgical correction may help overcome hearing impairment.
DID YOU KNOW?
Hearing impairment is considered to be the most prevalent congenital abnormality in newborns.
Hearing loss, or hearing impairment, is a problem referring to the partial or complete inability to hear. It may affect one or both ears. It is diagnosed when an individual cannot detect sounds of 25 decibels or less in at least one ear. It can either be temporary or permanent state.
The factors causing deafness include:
• Birth complications.
• Injuries or trauma to the ear.
• Exposure to loud noise.
• Rubella infection during pregnancy.
• Chronic ear infections.
Problems of hearing have the following symptoms:
• Pain or pressure in the ears
• Loss of directionality of sound.
• Dullness, muffling or attenuation of sounds or speech.
• Difficulty in understanding speech, especially of women and children.
• Hyperacusis or heightened sensitivity to certain volumes and frequencies of sound.
• Disturbance of facial movement (indicating a possibility of stroke or tumour).
• Tympanotonus or the abnormal hearing of one's own voice and respiratory sounds.
• Tinnitus, ringing, buzzing, hissing or other sounds in the ear when no external sound is present.
Tinnitus which results from hearing loss is called subjective tinnitus. It is caused by exposure to noise which damages the hair cells in the inner ear, ontological or neurological reasons. Subjective tinnitus can only be heard by the affected person. In individuals affected by tinnitus, deafness is mostly induced by cochlear damage.
Hearing loss is of two types:
• Conductive hearing loss caused by any condition or disease preventing the transmission of sound through the middle ear cavity to the inner ear. It may result from a blockage in the external ear canal. This reduces the intensity of the sound reaching the inner ear. This condition can usually be remedied leading to complete or partial improvement in hearing.
• Sensorineural hearing loss: Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by a dysfunctioning auditory nerve or a problem in the inner ear. While the reasons for sensorineural hearing loss cannot always be determined, it is usually an irreversible and permanent condition. It reduces the intensity of sound besides distorting it so that it becomes unclear even when audible.
Hearing tests are required to ascertain the stage of hearing loss. Physical exams, general screening, audiometer tests and tuning fork tests are used for diagnosis. Further course of treatment may include surgery, hearing aids or cochlear implants.
• Surgery in the event of a serious ear injury or infections which require draining.
• Hearing aids if the hearing loss results from damage to the inner ear. A hearing aid can help improve hearing by increasing the volume of the transmitted sounds. The audiologist usually recommends devices according to the patient’s requirement.
A bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA) or bone-anchored hearing device is a type of hearing aid based on bone conduction. It is primarily designed for people whose hearing loss is conductive, unilateral, single-sided or mixed. BAHAs are more expensive than conventional hearing aids, and need invasive surgery with minimal complications.
• Cochlear implants in the event of severe hearing loss. It is an electronic, medical device which transmits sound to the brain by bypassing the damaged cochlea.
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