All You Need to Know About Hearing Loss

6th December 2020

Hearing loss is an unfortunate condition where one or several parts of the ear stop working. It’s one of the most common health problems in the world and it’s ranked as the third most common condition that people suffer from. Even though hearing loss has different types and the level of impairment is different for each person, it still negatively affects the quality of life of everyone suffering from it. If you want to learn more about this impairment, read on to understand some of the important facts about hearing loss.

Common Causes of Hearing Impairment 

The causes of hearing impairment vary and sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint the real cause behind the condition in some cases. Most causes are avoidable and treatable while some causes aren’t, and they’re beyond anyone’s control. It can be a gradual process where the loss starts slowly with an ear infection that can be treated, but chronic infections can cause permanent damages that can’t be treated. Aging is another common cause that affects people above 65 years old, but this type of hearing loss is related to the person’s noise exposure over the years.

A viral infectious disease can hinder a person’s hearing and the common infections can be mumps, measles, or shingles. Injuries and freak accidents can rupture the eardrum, scarring it enough that it impairs hearing. Hearing loss accidents are usually common in the military, construction work, or even the music business. Hereditary conditions and certain genes can cause hearing loss, leading to people being born deaf or gradually losing their sense of hearing after a few years after birth. Another rare disease called Ménière’s disease can damage people’s sense of balance and the inner ear, making them lose all sense of hearing.

The Role of Technology

The condition impacts people’s lives and it forces them to make necessary changes to their lifestyle. However, technology has a major role that can help people with hearing impairment to lead normal lives. The UK has a percentage of deaf people that try their best to do daily activities and find jobs to support themselves. Thanks to technology, deaf people can rest assured knowing that hearing aids have come a long way, and now you can even have them custom-made to fit the shape of one’s ear to make it look invisible. It will lower any embarrassment levels and people can feel confident to do normal tasks, communicate easily, achieve their goals, and find work like anyone else. Innovative gadgets are being  developed every year to help deaf people communicate with others. Whether they use a sign language translator device, vibration bracelets to alert them with surrounding noises, and even smart gloves that get connected to a smartphone for a voice activation app.

Levels of Hearing Impairment

Certain degrees and levels of hearing loss can be diagnosed by a doctor to let people understand their hearing threshold in decibels. A severe hearing loss level means that a person can hear sounds but very poorly to the point that they can’t hear a normal conversation. Speech must be louder than normal and their hearing threshold is 60 to 80 DB. A profound hearing loss level means that people have extreme difficulty hearing even with amplification devices and it’s impossible to hear anything without them. Their threshold is 90 DB or higher.

People with moderate hearing loss have a threshold of 40 to 60 DB, needing time to understand speech properly and they require the highest volume levels for watching TV or listening to the radio. Mild hearing loss cases are simple and they can hear conversations normally but soft conversations can be difficult to pick up, especially in crowded areas with background noises. Their threshold is 25 to 40 DB. Each degree needs to be diagnosed and treated accordingly, but some cases will require permanent usage of sound-amplifying devices and hearing aids.

Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss has different forms and the four major types are Conductive, Sensorineural, Mixed, and Auditory Neuropathy. Conductive loss is when the outer or middle ear is damaged, blocking the cochlea and increasing earwax or fluid build-up. It can be caused by infections, tumors, bone growth, or damages to the eardrum. Sensorineural loss is when the inner ear is damaged, impairing the insides of the cochlea to the point that most frequencies can’t be picked up. This type is a gradual hearing loss and can be caused by loud exposure to sounds over time or old age.

Mixed loss is a combination of the first two types, damaging the inner, outer, and middle parts of the ear. The causes are the same but the only difference is that the person goes through all of them together. Auditory neuropathy loss is related to nerve and brain damage, rendering a person deaf from the lack of oxygen, developing jaundice condition, or other brain conditions that can damage the ears.

Common Symptoms 

The common symptoms vary and it depends on the person’s hearing loss level. Most deaf people experience muffled sounds that seem far away but they’re not. The inability to pick up certain frequencies like certain melodies, consonants, or a women’s voice. The most common symptom is the difficulty to make out noises with several background sounds, making conversations quite challenging to follow. Constant ringing, humming, roaring, or clicking are common in severe cases. Tinnitus can be another symptom of hearing impairment because of prolonged exposure to loud noises.

Hearing impairment is a serious condition that can affect anyone regardless of their age. People may develop it as they get old, certain accidents or explosions with sudden impactful noises can damage the ears, and some are born with the condition. It takes a while for someone to get used to the lifestyle changes resulting from hearing loss, especially if they start to exhibit symptoms at an old age. Medical breakthroughs and technology have developed several ways that can lessen the burden of hearing impairment, making people’s lives much more manageable. Some types of hearing loss can be cured and the medical field is confident that all types and impairment levels can be cured too someday in the future.