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Hearing Loss or Impairment

Hearing loss or Impairment is the total of partial inability to hear sounds. Symptoms of hearing loss can be classified as mild, moderate and severe.

A person with mild hearing loss may have difficulty understanding speech especially within noisy environment. One with moderate hearing loss may need hearing aid to enable him or her hear. However, persons with severe or profound hearing loss rely on lip-reading or sign language to communicate with others.

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TYPES OF HEARING LOSS

There are three main types of hearing loss

  • Conductive Hearing Loss
  • Sensorineural Hearing Loss
  • Mixed Hearing Loss

CONDUCTIVE HEARING LOSS

This is the hearing due to obstructions in the external ear canal or middle ear cavity preventing sound vibrations from reaching the inner ear. Conductive hearing loss can also be unilateral or bilateral.

CAUSES OF CONDUCTIVE HEARING LOSS

  • Build-up of excessive wax in external auditory canal
  • Tympanic membrane perforation
  • Ossicular chain disruption
  • Infection in the external auditory canal and middle ear leading pus formation
  • Otosclerosis
  • Abnormal growths or tumours
  • Deformed pinna
  • Canal atresia

SENSORINEURAL HEARING LOSS

This is kind of hearing loss resulting from dysfunction of the inner ear, cochlea, auditory nerve, or brain damage.

CAUSES OF SENSORINEURAL HEARING LOSS

  1. Damage to hair cells in the inner ear due to aging (presbyacusis)
  2. Long-term exposure to loud sounds
  3. Congenital deformities of the inner ear
  4. Hereditary factors
  5. Head trauma affecting the auditory cortex
  6. Inner ear infections
  7. Meniere disease
  8. Some medications such as gentamicin, sildenafil (Viagra), and some chemotherapy drugs, etc, can damage the inner ear.

NB: Damaged hair cells cannot be replaced.

MIXED HEARING LOSS

This is a combination of both conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss.

SYMPTOMS OF HEARING LOSS

  1. Others telling you that you have hearing loss
  2. Ringing in the ears may be present
  3. You have difficulty hearing on the phone
  4. Avoiding social gathering that were once enjoyable
  5. Complains of others not speaking clearly
  6. Difficulty understanding conversations in noisy places
  7. You may turn TV to a volume considered by others to be too loud
  8. Frequently ask others to repeat themselves

DIAGNOSIS OF HEARING LOSS

  1. Audiometry
  2. Tuning fork tests
  3. General screening tests like whisper test
  4. Physical examination

MANAGEMENT OF HEARING LOSS

Treatment or management of hearing loss depends on the cause of the hearing loss.

  • Antibacterial therapy in case of otitis externa due to bacteria, middle ear infections.
  • Antifungals therapy in case of otomycosis.
  • Surgical repair of perforated tympanic membrane, ossicular chain disruption, and otosclerosis.
  • Use of hearing aids.
  • Cochlear implants.
  • Syringing of ears in case of impacted wax, foreign bodies, debris, etc.

PREVENTION OF HEARING LOSS

  1. Use ear protection like foam ear plugs, when around loud sound areas.
  2. Avoid loud or noisy activities or places, if possible, or limit your time of exposure to loud sounds.
  3. Reduce the volume on your TV, radio, when playing music, etc.
  4. Do not put objects like cotton swabs, bobby pins, keys, etc, that has the potential to harm your ears.
  5. Get your hearing tested once your notice decrease in your hearing.

COMPLICATIONS OF HEARING LOSS

  • Feeling of depression.
  • Feeling of isolation due to trouble having conversation with others.
  • Cognitive impairment and decline.


SERIOUS ADVICE

Exposure to loud noise either suddenly or over a long-term period can damage the hair cells in the inner ear. Damaged hair cells in the inner ear cannot be replaced. Use of ear piece with high volume over a period of time can damage once inner ear hair cells which cannot be replaced. Attending concert parties, rallies, or other social gathering of loud sound can result in damage of the inner ear hair cells.

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