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Hearing loss is not something limited to elderly men or elderly women only. This is something that can affect any adult at any stage of life. The good news is that it can be managed. Today, there are a number of hearing aids that can help improve hearing ability. These aids allow an individual who has lost part of his or her hearing to live a normal life. For best results, hearing loss should be arrested in its early stages.
- Muffled Speech: When you hear people talk, their speech should be clearly identifiable. If you hear muffled noises that you have to interpret as words, it could be a sign of hearing loss.
- Difficulty understanding words: The human ear has the ability to separate conversational sounds from ambient noise. However, in some cases where the inner ear is damaged, a person might find it difficult to separate the two. In such cases, the person might not be able to understand words clearly as they get confused with background noise. This is a sign that must never be taken lightly.
- Feeling the need to ask people to repeat themselves: Once in a while if you find yourself asking another person to repeat what he or she said, there is nothing to worry. However, if this becomes a regular occurrence and happens with many people, then the fault lies in your hearing. Thus, if you notice yourself needing to ask people to repeat themselves or talk slowly, consult a hearing specialist.
- Increasing the volume of the radio or television: As children, we are taught that playing music or watching TV at a very high volume can damage the ears. The radio, television and other such appliances should be played at a volume where the information being relayed is clearly audible and people can have a conversation alongside without needing to shout. If you find yourself having to increase the volume constantly, it could be a sign of hearing loss.
- Withdrawing from conversations: As hearing loss is aggravated, people begin to feel conscious of having to ask others around them to repeat themselves or talk slowly. This can make them withdraw from a conversation and other social situations. In many cases, the simple reason for avoiding a party could be the discomfort of not being able to hear the other person clearly in a conversation.
All hearing problems can be better handled by proper investigation, different test, sign and symptoms of the patient, which are carried by a specialist of hearing, called as Audiologist, who can look your hearing problems, plan out treatment plan, rehabilitation pre and post etc. Audiologist will definitely help you hear again.
The structure of the ear can be broadly divided into three parts; the outer ear or visible part, the middle ear and the inner ear. The middle ear is highly susceptible to bacterial and viral infections. Ear infections can affect infants, children and adults. Ear infections are triggered by the blockage or swelling of tubes within the ear. These tubes are known as eustachian tubes.
This may be caused by:
- Sinus infections
- Cold or flu
- Excessive mucus
- Swollen adenoids or an adenoid infection
- Change in air pressure
Symptoms of an ear infection may be noticed in one or both ears. These symptoms vary from person to person. In some cases, they may come and go while in others, they can be experienced for a long stretch of time. In most cases, symptoms of a chronic ear infection are less noticeable as compared to an acute ear infection.
Some of the most common ear infection symptoms are:
- Ear pain: In the case of an ear infection in only one ear, the pain may be mild but if it has affected both ears, the patient can be caused considerable pain in the ears. This pain is usually more severe when the patient is lying down.
- Discharge of pus from the ears: Ear infections that affect the eardrum can cause fluid or pus to flow out of the ears. In some cases, there may also be a little bleeding. Do not plug the ears to keep this discharge from flowing as it can aggravate the infection further.
- Loss of hearing: A blockage in the middle ear can make sounds appear muffled. This can temporarily affect hearing. It is usually relieved when the infection is cured.
- Sensation of pressure in the ear canal: The buildup of fluid within the ear canal can make it feel full and create a sense of pressure. If the infection affects only one ear, this pressure can cause a sense of dis-balance.
- Fussiness in young infants: Ear infections can be very painful and uncomfortable for young infants. It can make it difficult for them to sleep, make them cranky and more irritable than usual.
- Fever: Ear infections can cause a fever that is often higher than 100 degrees. If it crosses 102 degrees, a doctor must be consulted immediately.
- Loss of balance: The ears not only help us hear but also influence our sense of balance. A middle ear infection can cause dizziness, vertigo and nausea.
While it is sheer joy for a parent to see his/her child respond to questions and discussions, some children may not be able to do so, as they cannot hear what the parent is saying or asking. This condition of hearing loss can be either seen at birth (congenital) or it may develop after a few years (acquired). While it is difficult identifying hearing loss before 6 months of age, earlier detection can be extremely helpful in terms of improving the prognosis. Though not common, congenital hearing loss affects about 1.4 per 1000 births, while acquired loss affects about 5 per 1000 births.
Signs to identify hearing loss:
- Takes time to respond to your call often
- Repeatedly asks you to repeat what you just said
- Tries to keep the ear closer to the source of the sound, either people or things
- Asks for the volume of TV and music to be higher than normal
- The child talks louder to be clear and understood
- The teacher at school complains about lack of attention
- Appears to be not paying attention to what said, and says, “didn’t hear you”
- Appears to lip-read by looking at the lips intently to see what you said
- Could have ear pains or ringing in the ears
- Reluctant to use phone or strains to hear over the phone
Before proceeding to treatment, the first step is to confirm hearing loss. A thorough physical exam and audiogram can help identify the reason for the hearing loss, so treatment can be planned accordingly.
In some children, severe wax buildup and middle ear infections can also cause hearing loss. All it requires is clearing of wax and a course of infection treatment to restore hearing. With medical advances, tests which are painless and non-invasive can be done in children as young as 6 months to confirm hearing loss.
- Hearing aids: With aesthetics being a major concern, there are discreet devices which can be completely hidden. Even severe hearing loss can be managed with these.
- Cochlear implant: Where there is a nervous problem, cochlear implants are used.
- Speech therapy: For kids who have had a delay in picking up speech and language, additional speech therapy may be required.
Confirmation of hearing loss, is done by audiologist & speech language pathologist who are specialized in dealing with hearing and speech related problems and their management. So, its always advised to follow the specialist. In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!