Hearing loss or hearing impairment is the phenomenon in which a person loses the ability to hear either partially or completely in one or both of the ears. It occurs when the sound waves are unable to reach the brain due to some blockage or damage in the ear. Hearing loss is caused when the threshold level (minimum hearing ability of a person) exceeds 25dB (decibel). Statistics show that 1 out of every 3 persons, that is, a total of about 33% of the world’s population above 65 years of age, are suffering from hearing impairment. Also, about 7% of children are being born with hearing disability each year due to various causes. Sadly, about 60% of hearing impaired people are from the work and educational fields. If the treatment of hearing loss is not done on time, it might lead to serious consequences, like social isolation, inability to communicate, delayed language development, stress, depression, stigmatization, Tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and the ultimate being deafness. Hence, as the saying goes, “A stitch in time saves nine”, it should not be neglected which, sadly, most people do.
Hearing loss is gradually becoming a major health issue, and is placed third in the list of serious health problems, after arthritis and cardiac disease. Hearing loss is seen both in kids and adults, though the percentage of hearing impaired adults is much higher than that of kids. There may be various factors that result in hearing disorders, like, noise-induced, genetic causes, ototoxic drugs, physical or mental disorders or trauma, infections, aging, to name a few. However, there are some other generic factors that depend on the specific type of hearing impairment. There are mainly three broad types of hearing loss, namely, a) Conductive hearing loss, b) Sensorineural hearing loss, and c) Mixed hearing loss.
Treatment of hearing loss varies from person to person depending on its type and degree. There are mainly five degrees of hearing loss, namely, mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe and profound. Other than the ones mentioned above, there are two types of hearing loss based on age of onset, which are, a) Congenital (when one is born with a hearing disability) and b) Acquired (when one acquires hearing impairment gradually in his lifetime). There are various treatments of hearing loss, such as, fitting of hearing aids, cochlear implantations, medications, therapies done by audiologists and the like.
Conductive hearing loss can be caused due to factors like malformation of outer ear, middle ear or the ear canal structures; formation of fluid in the middle ear due to colds; allergies and infections; perforated eardrum; malfunctioning of the Eustachian tube; invasion of foreign particles in the ear; and mental trauma.
The causes of Sensorineural hearing loss may be continuous exposure to loud noise, head trauma, malformation of inner ear, presbycusis (aging), virus infection, diseases, hereditary causes, Meniere’s disease, and tumors.
The factors causing Mixed hearing loss may be a combination of those mentioned above.
As mentioned earlier, the treatment of hearing loss can be carried out by performing various surgeries, like cochlear implantation, replacement of the ear bones, repairing of damaged ear structures; therapies; and fitting various hearing aid devices in the ear. Hearing aid devices vary depending on the specific requirements of the patient. They can be of multiple types, serving different functions and can be categorised based on design, technology and the features they provide.
In no way should the patient feel discomforted in wearing hearing aid devices as they are not only shrinking in size, but are also becoming more and more technologically advanced with new features that are user-friendly. Hence, one should not keep oneself away from these hassle-free treatments, and proceed towards living a better life.