Hearing impairment is hearing loss that prevents a person from totally receiving sounds through the ear. If the loss is mild, the person has difficulty hearing faint or distant speech. A person with this degree of hearing impairment may use a hearing aid to amplify sounds. It is categorized as slight, mild, moderate, severe or profound, depending on how well an individual can hear the frequencies that are commonly associated with speech.There are four types of hearing impairment:
§ Conductive: caused by diseases or obstructions in the outer or middle ear that usually affect all frequencies of hearing.
§ Sensorineural: results from damage to the inner ear. This loss can range from mild to profound and often affects certain frequencies more than others.
§ 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?
Identification of hearing impairment is done by a Ear nose and throat specialist. The case history and physical examination are the first diagnostic steps. An otoscope is used for physical examination of the ear. Laboratory testing like blood or body fluids are submitted in laboratories. Hearing tests like audiometry, pure tone audiometry and auditory brainstem response are used for confirming hearing impairment
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?
The degree of hearing impairment can vary widely from person to person. Some people have partial hearing loss, meaning that the ear can pick up some sounds, others have complete hearing loss, meaning that the ear cannot hear at all (people with complete hearing loss are considered deaf). In some types of hearing loss, a person can have much more trouble when there is background noise. One or both ears may be affected, and the impairment may be worse in one ear than in the other.
Hearing impairment or hearing loss is a condition of partial or complete inability to hear which may affect one or both the ears. It renders an individual unable to detect sounds below 25 decibels in at least one ear. It can either be temporary or permanent state.
The factors inducing deafness are:
• Birth complications.
• Rubella infection during pregnancy.
• Injuries or trauma to the ear.
• Exposure to loud noise.
• Chronic ear infections.
The following are a few symptoms of hearing loss:
• Dullness, muffling or attenuation of sounds or speech.
• Pain or pressure in the ears
• Loss of directionality 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.
• Hyperacusis or heightened sensitivity to certain volumes and frequencies of sound.
• Tinnitus, ringing, buzzing, hissing or other sounds in the ear when no external sound is present.
Tinnitus is either caused by exposure to noise which damages the hair cells in the inner ear or because of ontological or neurological reasons. Subjective tinnitus can only be heard by the affected person. In individuals suffering from tinnitus, deafness is mostly induced by cochlear damage.
Hearing loss is of two types:
• Sensorineural hearing loss: Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by a dysfunctional auditory nerve or a problem in the inner ear. Usually a permanent and irreversible condition, the exact reasons for sensorineural hearing loss cannot always be detected. It reduces the intensity of sound being transmitted and distorts it so that the sound becomes unclear even when audible.
• Conductive hearing loss: Conductive hearing loss is caused by any condition or disease which prevents the transmission of sound through the middle ear cavity to the inner ear. It may be the result of a blockage in the external ear canal which reduces the intensity of the sound being transmitted to the inner ear. This condition can usually be remedied leading to complete or partial improvement in hearing.
The stage of hearing loss can usually be ascertained through hearing tests. Audiometer tests, physical exams, general screening, and tuning fork tests are generally used for diagnosis. Further course of treatment may include:
• Surgery for draining of severe infections or serious ear injuries.
• Cochlear implants to transmit sounds to the brain directly bypassing a damaged cochlea. These implants are medical electronic devices.
• Hearing aids to increase the volume of the sounds being transmitted to the inner ear. Audiologists prescribe hearing aids according to the medical condition of an individual.
A bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA) or bone-anchored hearing device is a type of hearing aid based upon bone conduction. It is primarily designed for people whose hearing loss is either conductive or unilateral or single-sided or mixed in nature. BAHAs are more expensive than conventional hearing aids and need to be installed after invasive surgeries with minimal complications.
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