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Hearing Loss – A Detailed Study of The Common Impairment

A report by WHO (World Health Organization) reveals 2.5 billion people are likely to have some degree of hearing impairment by 2025! And, over 1 billion young adults are risking permanent, avoidable hearing loss owing to unsafe listening practices.

Frequent exposure to the surging noise pollution and the rise of noisy electronics in our households and workspaces are the leading causes of acquired hearing loss.

Prolonged exposure to noises jeopardizes your hearing. Timely diagnosis and an effective treatment plan featuring the right devices is a step in the right direction to conserve hearing abilities.

The Audible Range of Human Ears

A healthy young person can hear frequencies from 20Hz to 20,000Hz. Infants have been found to be able to frequencies even slightly higher than 20,000Hz.

Though a ‘normal’ audible range for loudness is from 0 to 180dB, anything over 85dB is considered damaging, so we should try not to go there.

Hearing Impairment & Age – The Connect

As we age, the upper range of our hearing capacity tends to decline eventually from 20,000Hz to 17,000Hz. It is the healthy progression of age.

A report says one in three elderly at or above the age of 65 develop hearing issues. Well, that doesn’t imply that children aren’t at risk of hearing loss. We tend to lose hearing ability at higher frequencies first. Generally, humans are not exposed to higher frequencies that don’t make the audibility loss evident. It might be the root cause of delay to diagnose hearing loss at earlier stages.

Statistics released by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) say, 14.9% of children at the age of 6-19 years are more likely to experience hearing issues up to 16 dB.

Hearing Impairment & Gender – The Connect

Hearing loss impacts the two sexes differently! Men are more likely to get affected by hearing loss as compared to women. Men between the ages of 20 and 69 experience hearing loss twice as much as women do, says National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Based on the hypothesized explanation of expert audiologists, the following factors might justify the fact behind this disparity:

  • Workplace hubbub

In the workplace, 85 dB is the acceptable range of hearing on a daily or average weekly exposure. And, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a common disparity among individuals. A 2009 study by Science Daily says men have 3 times more probability to acquire NIHL than women.

  • Frequency difference

Researchers reflect, men first lose their hearing capability of hearing higher frequencies. Almost every woman hears better than men above the frequencies of 2000 Hz. However, men are better at detecting lower frequencies below 1000 to 2000 Hz than women.

Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing impairment is the condition arising from damaging issues in one or more parts of the ears. Occurring due to different conditions, hearing loss is categorized into the following:

Sensorineural

Damage in the inner ear (Cochlea) or auditory nerve leads to sensorineural hearing loss causing permanent damage to the hearing. Individuals are troubled to sync hearing and speech simultaneously. This impairment is not cured by medicinal or surgical treatment. Although, in some cases, hearing aids have been effective in their treatment.

Causes of sensorineural hearing loss

  • Aging – Presbycusis is common in old age. It typically occurs in both the ears making it subtle. Along the nerve pathways to the brain and within the cochlea, degeneration impacts our hearing capability. Tiny hair within the inner ear transforms the received sound waves into electrical signals for the brain. It further interprets the recognizable sound. A published review on ‘screening and management of adult hearing loss in primary care’ evidently states that 25-40% of the population at the age of 65 years, 40-66% older than 75 years, and more than 80% above the age of 85 years develop presbycusis as they grow older.
  • Noise – Noise-induced hearing loss is most commonly seen in cases of gunfire or explosion. Prolonged exposure to noise of more than 90 dB poses a threat to your healthy hearing. In a report by WHO, more than 1 billion youths are on the verge of transient or permanent hearing loss due to unsafe listening habits. However, noise-induced hearing loss is completely preventable.
  • Infections – Striving measles, mumps (viral infection affecting salivary glands), and meningitis (inflammation in the membrane protecting the brain and spinal cord) like infections contribute to unilateral or bilateral hearing issues.
  • Tumors and trauma – A blow to the head by a blatant weapon or radical changes in the noise frequency for a long time impact your hearing. Cholesteatoma (abnormal growth of the skin behind the eardrum) and acoustic neuroma (tumor on the nerve in cochlea connecting to the brain) contribute to sensorineural hearing loss.
  • Medications – Ototoxic medications agitate your hearing health. Medications are no other than antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications, and cancer chemotherapeutic drugs. The amalgamation of all can lead to permanent hearing loss in most cases.
  • Lifestyle diseases – Smoking, hypertension, obesity, and diabetes are some of the causes that amplify your hearing disability. Regular smoking causes blockage in the eustachian tube that builds pressure causing hearing loss.

High blood pressure damages our blood vessels affecting the whole body. It results in a fatty plaque buildup and causes hearing impairment.

Conductive

Occurring in the middle or outer ear, sound waves are obstructed due to earwax or foreign particles in the ear canal. It is most commonly found in children with perennial infections or due to the insertion of any object in the ear canal. This impairment is reversible and curable with certain medications or surgical intrusion.

Causes of conductive hearing loss

  • Earwax formation – Our body produces earwax (also called cerumen) normally in order to keep the ears clean but its untreated buildup causes hearing loss, pain, and dizziness in the ears.
  • Infection – Swimmer’s ear (also called otitis externa) is an infection caused in the ear canal due to water exposure or using cotton swabs. Ear clogging affects your hearing.
  • Bony lesions – Non-cancerous growth of bones in the ear canal occurs generally in young adults. It is also termed otosclerosis.
  • Aural atresia – Aural atresia is the deformity of the outer ear canal. It is acquired or congenital deformity in children. The deformed structure of the ear averts sound to enter the ear.
  • Foreign impacts – Commonly seen in children, it is developed due to insertion of any object in the ear or bugs getting into the ear causes hearing loss in children.

Mixed hearing loss

The elements of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss combinedly result in mixed hearing loss. Along with the sensorineural hearing loss, the conductive elements follow up to develop mixed hearing impairment.

Since mixed hearing loss occurs due to sensorineural and conductive hearing loss, the causes are co-related.

Symptoms of Hearing Loss

Based on the degree of hearing loss, symptoms can be classified as:

  • Mild – Individuals are comfortable in one-on-one conversation but aren’t susceptible to clear listening and understanding with background noise enabled.
  • Moderate – The person suffering from moderate hearing loss asks for repetitive discussion during a telephonic conversation.
  • Profound – Profound hearing loss only allows entering loud voices into your ear else you need cochlear implantation or a hearing aid to balance out normal hearing.
  • Severe – Severe hearing loss leads to difficulties to adapt to social gatherings due to complete deafness.

Treatment for Hearing Loss

The conductive deafness due to infection in the ear, correction of anatomical defects, and surgical management of tumors like acoustic neuroma have medical treatment as a reliable solution.

Hearing loss that can’t be treated medically is managed by provision of assistance.

  • Hearing aids

Hearing aids are small electronic devices that amplify the sound frequency and improve your quality of hearing. Nevertheless, it doesn’t restore your hearing in case of deafness. Our hearing aids can be customized as per a thorough checkup of your hearing loss. Hearing aids befitting for persons with mild to moderate hearing difficulties.

  •  Hearing implantation

In severe cases, hearing aids fail to retrieve the sounds for brain signaling. Bone-anchored hearing aids and cochlear implants serve as the best alternative in such cases. Fitted inside or to the skull through surgical treatments, these ailments pick the recognizable sound frequency and resonate the inner ear to signal the brain. It enables easy on and off clipping during night or water exposure.

The cochlear implant is another best option to supersede the effects of hearing aids. Turning the sound into electrical signals for easy interpretation, this device helps in the transmission of sound to the cochlea. A cochlear implant is effective only if the auditory nerve is in proper functioning.

  • Auditory brainstem implant

The inadequacy of the auditory nerve ceases the sound from reaching your ear. The prime difference between cochlear and brainstem implant is, the picked-up sound is directly sent to the brain instead of the cochlea. An auditory brainstem implant doesn’t restore your hearing capability.

Problems Associated with Hearing Impairment

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association says hearing loss may affect your mental wellness adversely. Hearing loss brings a drastic change in the lives of individuals that develops self-hostile behavior.

Depending on the behavioral issues, hearing loss can cause:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Social withdrawal
  • Fatigue
  • Isolation

Preventive measures

  • Avoid loud noises
  • Manage hearing practices while using earphones. Don’t use them for more than 1 hour at a time.
  • Frequent testing of ears prevents hearing loss at an early stage.

To diagnose the type of hearing impairment, one-on-one consultation is a crucial step. Get consultation directly from our highly-experienced doctors at Quality Hearing Care. Our expert audiologists diagnose your condition and offer highly personalized services. . Depending on the age, degree of impairment, lifestyle, and preferences of the patients, we provide the best hearing solutions driven by advanced hearing technology.

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