Hearing Loss is very common, the ever-increasing noise pollution has affected people as young as 30 to 40 years of age. Normal Hearing loss occurs as you age, around one-third of the people in India who are between the ages of 60-70 have some problem of hearing loss. For people older than 70, the number is much more. Broadly there are 3 types of Hearing loss:
- Conductive hearing loss
- Sensorineural hearing loss
- Mixed hearing loss
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The problem with Sensorineural Hearing Loss and to some extent, Mixed hearing loss is that you cannot reverse it. However, Conductive Hearing Loss is reversible if one seeks medical advice in time. After proper diagnosis, the Doctor will recommend hearing loss surgery. It is advisable to undergo the surgical procedure to overcome the hearing problem and improve your hearing.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hearing Loss?
The signs and symptoms of hearing loss might include:
Difficulty In Understanding Words, When There Is Noise Or In A Crowd
This is the first sign of hearing loss, the start is very gradual. It may not be very obvious in a one to one conversation but is very obvious in a conversation in a crowded place like a restaurant or at a party.
Asking Others To Speak Slowly, Loudly And Clearly
People with hearing loss feel that others are not speaking clearly. They generally request others to repeat and speak clearly.
Withdrawal From Conversations
Once the person realizes that having a conversation is difficult, they tend to withdraw from conversations to avoid embarrassment. This is very dangerous. We have to ensure that our parents and elders should attend to their hearing loss. Withdrawing from active life leads to depression and in some cases also leads to Alzheimer’s disease.
Avoidance Of Social Settings
The next step after withdrawing from conversations is to stop attending social functions. It gets all the more difficult to pick up a conversation in a noisy surrounding. One should avoid this situation at all costs.
Need To Turn Up The Volume Of The Television
This is another important indicator. Other people in the house should observe that the volume is louder than normal. The person with hearing loss will not realize.
Muffling Of Speech
People with hearing loss have low speech discrimination, though they can hear, the words are not very clear.
What Are The Causes Of Hearing Loss?
Causes of hearing loss can include:
Damage To The Inner Ear
Exposure to loud noises and ageing can lead to hearing loss. Our nerves become weak and cannot carry the sound signal efficiently. Our Inner ear has thousands of small and delicate hair cells. These hair cells die due to damage caused by loud sounds and some diseases. These hair cells convert the sound energy to electric pulses which reach the brain. When the nerve and cells get damaged electric signals are not transmitted effectively as they should and hearing loss will occur.
The Buildup Of Earwax
Earwax can block the ear canal and it can prevent the conduction of sound waves. Earwax removal can help to restore the hearing.
Ear Infection In The Outer Ear
If there is an infection, it can cause hearing loss. The infection can cause permanent damage if it is not treated in time. Visit your ENT Doctor and take treatment. Self-treatment by buying over the counter medicines is dangerous.
Loud noises, sudden changes in the pressure, poking your eardrum with sharp metallic instruments can rupture the eardrum. Protect your ears from loud explosions and deep water swimming as it can rupture the eardrum.
Prevention Of Hearing Loss
The following steps can help you to prevent hearing loss:
- Protect your Ears: The duration and intensity of the exposure to the noise can limit the hearing loss. This will be the best protection for hearing loss. In the workplace, Soft silicone earplugs can help to protect your ears from damaging noise.
- Get your Hearing Tested: You should consider a regular hearing test if you work in a noisy environment. If your report indicates a slight hearing loss, consult a Hearing professional and take some steps to prevent further loss.
Hearing Loss Diagnosis
Tests to diagnose hearing loss can include:
- Physical Examination: Your doctor will look in your ear for the possible causes of hearing loss like earwax or inflammation due to an infection. The doctor will also look for any structural causes of hearing loss.
- Screening Tests: The doctor may use the whisper test, asking you to cover one ear at a time to see how well you can hear spoken words.
- App-based Hearing Test: There are various mobile apps available which would help in the hearing test. You can use these apps by yourself to check your hearing problem. However, this type of test is more of a screening process. An Audiometry is a must for diagnostic testing.
- Audiometry Tests: During these tests which are specifically conducted by an Audiologist. You have to wear headphones in a soundproof room. Sounds of different frequencies produced by the testing equipment (Audiometer) reach the ears. Each sound produced starts from faint and keeps getting louder. This is to find the quietest sound you can hear.
Hearing Loss Treatment
If you are suffering from hearing problems, then treatment is available. The treatment will depend on the cause of the problem and the severity. The treatment options include:
- Removing wax blockage: Earwax blockage is a reversible cause of hearing loss. The doctor can remove the earwax using the suction or with the help of a small tool with a loop in the end.
- Surgical procedures: Some types of hearing loss can be treated with the help of surgery, which includes abnormalities of the eardrum. If you have had repeated infections with persistent fluid build-up, the doctor may include small tubes which help to drain your ear.
- Hearing Aids: If your hearing loss is due to damage in the inner ear then hearing aid can be helpful. An audiologist will tell you about the benefits and Types of Hearing Aids. Open fit aids are currently most popular due to the fit and the features that they offered.
- Cochlear implants: If your hearing loss is severe and hearing aids are not helping you, then you can go for Cochlear Implants. Unlike a hearing aid that amplifies sounds and directs it to your ear canal. A cochlear implant bypasses the damaged parts of the middle ear and inner ear and it directly stimulates the hair cells in the Cochlea. This provides signals to the Auditory nerve. An ENT specialist will do this task with no problem at all.
You should consult your doctor as soon as possible. If you will delay the surgery, then it can lead to a permanent problem for you. It could lead to permanent damage to your ear leading to disability and problems in day to day life. You should go and consult an ENT doctor quickly without wasting any time.