Hearing loss is also known as hearing impairment. This is a total or partial inability to hear. Hearing loss may occur in one or both areas. Hearing loss, in children, can affect the ability to learn a language and understand speech. In adults, it can cause work-related problems. Hearing loss can either be temporary or permanent. There are three major types of hearing loss which include conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss. Hearing loss may cause loneliness, especially in older people.
Hearing loss is caused by a wide range of factors which include genetics, aging, exposure to noise, infections, congenital (birth) complications, trauma or injury to the ear and allergic reactions to some certain medications or toxins. The most common cause of hearing loss is chronic ear infections. During pregnancy, some diseases such as syphilis and rubella may cause hearing loss in the child.
These include difficulty in understanding speech, difficulty in using the telephone, difficulty in differentiating speech from background noise and unnecessary need to increase the television volume, radio, and other audio sources. It may also be accomplished by ear pain or ear pressure, stuffy ears, vertigo and the abnormal hearing of one’s own voice and respiratory sounds.
Hearing loss is diagnosed when a person cannot hear at 25 decibels of sound vibrations in at least one ear. This is done using a hearing test. The severity of hearing loss ranges from mild to severe depending on the cause.
Hearing loss, however, is preventable by proper care during pregnancy, immunization, avoiding unnecessary loud noisy areas and avoiding some certain medications. Young people are also advised to minimize the usage of personal audio players, headphones, and earphones to at most an hour per day. This is to limit the exposure of the ears to noise.
The diagnosis is usually carried out by an otolaryngologist or a certified audiologist by the use of various hearing tests.
Conductive hearing loss is present when the sound is not reaching the cochlea. This may be due to structural problems of the ear canal or malfunctioning of the ossicles. Sensorineural hearing loss is when the nerve transmitting signals from the cochlea to the brain is affected or malfunctioning. Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss usually caused by a chronic ear infection. Hearing aids and surgery is used to treat hearing loss, however, hearing loss may be permanent in some extreme cases.
Hearing aids, sign language, cochlear implants, and subtitles are effective for people with impaired hearing abilities. Some also develop effective lip-reading skills. Hearing loss occurs when there is a decrease in the sensitivity of the ears to the sounds that are normally heard. The severity of loss of hearing is determined by the increase in the volume above the normal level needed before a person can detect it. Deafness, however, is the condition of hearing loss whereby someone is unable to detect sound despite the amplification of the sounds. In total deafness, the person hears no sounds at all no matter the amplification. Speech perception is an aspect of hearing which involves the perception of clarity of a word rather than the amplitude of the sound made by the word. This is done using test speech understanding, not just sound detection.