According to WHO, over 5% of the world’s population close to 460 million people have disabling hearing loss. The number will almost double to 900 million by 2050.
Hearing loss can occur over time or suddenly. It occurs when a person can no longer hear well or at all in one or both ears. Hearing loss naturally occurs with age, but it can affect people of all ages. In most cases, hearing loss is irreversible, but there are treatments that can help a person hear better. Disabling hearing loss is defined as hearing loss more than 40 decibels in better ear in adults and more than 30 decibels in children.
Causes of Hearing Loss
Several things can cause hearing loss. The cause of the hearing loss can also determine the severity. Some of the causes of hearing loss include,
- Inner Ear Damage: Nerve cells in the inner air are responsible for sending sounds signals to the brain. Exposure to loud noises can damage these hairs and interfere with the signals. When the sound can’t be transmitted properly, hearing loss occurs.
- Earwax Buildup: If the ears are not cleaned properly, earwax can build up and block the ear canal. This can make it hard to hear. Impacted earwax may need to be removed.
- Ear Infections: Ear infections can burst the eardrum and cause problems in the outer and middle ear that can lead to hearing loss.
- Abnormal Bone Growth: Abnormal bone growth in the ear can block the ear canal and cause hearing loss.
- Ruptured Ear Drum: Ear infections and a buildup of earwax in the ear canal can lead to a ruptured eardrum. Injuries to the ear or inserting an object into the ear can do the same. Once the eardrum has ruptured, hearing loss occurs.
Symptoms of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can sometimes be hard to notice in the early stages. Most people don’t realize that their hearing is failing until they are really struggling to hear. Since it can come on gradually, many people get used to hearing poorly and don’t notice a big change. Some of the most common symptoms of hearing loss include:
- Muffled hearing
- Difficulty understanding words
- Trouble hearing consonants
- Frequently asking people to speak up or repeat themselves
- Need to turn up the volume on devices
- Avoiding conversations
- Trouble pronouncing words correctly in young children
Diagnosis of Hearing Loss
A doctor can diagnose hearing loss, but it is sometimes necessary to see a specialist. There are several ways hearing loss can be diagnosed, including:
- Physical Exam: The doctor will examine the inside and the outside of the ear to determine if there are any issues that could be causing hearing loss.
- Auditory Tests: A doctor can put certain types of equipment near the ear that transmit sound and then determine if the patient can clearly hear it or is suffering from hearing loss.
Treatment of Hearing Loss
In most cases, hearing loss is not reversible, but it can be treated. There are several ways that doctors can help restore the ability to hear. Some of those ways include:
Prognosis of Hearing Loss
Most people who suffer from hearing loss can find a treatment that will restore some of their ability to hear. In some cases, hearing loss can be caught early, and the problems can be corrected before more damage occurs.
- American Academy of Audiology.