As per WHO, hearing impairment is the inability to hear as well as someone with normal hearing. Hearing impaired people can be hard of hearing (HOH) or deaf. If a person cannot hear at all, then they have deafness.
Hearing impairment may be inherited, or caused by diseases like maternal rubella or complications at birth, certain infectious diseases such as meningitis, use of ototoxic drugs, exposure to excessive noise and ageing.
Impact of hearing loss
One of the main impacts of hearing loss is on the individual’s inability to converse with others. Children with hearing loss often suffer in spoken language development .
Hearing loss and ear diseases such as otitis media can have a significantly adverse effect on the educational routine of children. However, If people suffering from hearing loss are provided a chance to communicate they can participate on an equal footing with others.
The communication can be through spoken/ written language or through sign language.
Social and emotional impact
Restricted access to communicate can have a significant impact on everyday life, causing feelings of solitude, seclusion and dissatisfaction, particularly among older people with hearing loss.
In developing countries, children with impaired hearing or deafness rarely receive any schooling. Adults with hearing loss are also subjected to higher unemployment rate. Among those who are employed, a higher percentage of people with hearing loss are in the lower grades of employment compared with the general workforce.
Early signs of hearing loss can include:
• Trouble in hearing other people clearly
• Requesting people to say again
• Listening to music or watching television with the high volume
• Not being able to hear telephone or door bell
Signs in children
• If a child is slow to learn to talk, or they are not clear when they speak
• If child asks one to repeat yourself
• If child talks very loudly
• If child watches TV at high volume
All these signs may point towards hearing impairment and should be discussed with a physician without delay.
The causes of hearing loss and deafness can be either congenital or acquired
Genetic causes leading to hearing loss include:
• Infections like maternal rubella, syphilis or certain other infections during pregnancy;
• Low birth weight
• Birth asphyxia (a lack of oxygen at the time of birth);
• Inappropriate use of ototoxic drugs (such as aminoglycosides, cytotoxic drugs, antimalarial drugs and diuretics) during pregnancy
• Severe jaundice in the neonatal period, which can damage the hearing nerve in a newborn infant.
Acquired causes lead to hearing loss at any age.
• Infectious diseases such as meningitis, measles and mumps can lead to loss of hearing especially in childhood but can also occur in later life.
• Chronic ear infection, which commonly presents as discharging ears, can lead to hearing loss. In certain cases this condition can also lead to serious, life-threatening complications, such as brain abscesses or meningitis.
• Collection of fluid in the ear (otitis media) can cause hearing loss.
• Use of ototoxic drugs at any age, such as some antibiotic and antimalarial medicines for example, can damage the inner ear.
• Head injury or injury to the ear can cause hearing loss.
• Working in excessive noise or loud music or other loud noises, such as gunfire or explosions, can harm a person’s hearing.
• Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is caused by degeneration of sensory cells.
• Wax or foreign bodies blocking the ear canal can cause hearing loss at any age
One should visit doctor as soon as they have hearing problems. The doctor may examine your ear with an instrument called auriscope to look for anything abnormal.
Treatment depends upon the cause of the condition like:
• Hearing impairment due to blockage of inner ear can be treated by drops or suction.
• Bacterial infection can be treated by antibiotics
• However, hearing loss cause by damage to inner ear or to the nerves is permanent.
Hearing aids doesn't treat the disease but helps in hearing.
It is not suitable for everyone and should be used with the advice of your physician.
*NHP provides indicative information for better understanding of health. As the disease progress may vary from person to person so consult your physician for actual diagnosis & treatment.
It is not possible to prevent deafness. However, risks factor can be avoided like
• One should not listen to the TV too loud
• Use of ear plugs or muffs if you are working in noisy environment
• Don't insert objects in your ear
U S National Library of Science