Do you know? Hearing loss is the third most common and leading health issues that affect people worldwide, and it can affect your relationships and deteriorate your quality of life. Although the most affected group is the old age, unfortunately, it might affect individuals belonging to any age group. And in most cases, progressive hearing loss is permanent and irreversible in nature. That means once you lose your hearing, it’s gone forever and you won’t be able to regain back your natural hearing. Hearing devices like hearing aids or cochlear implants can only help you to hear by amplifying the sounds for you and by making the most out of your residual hearing abilities. But they can do nothing more! So before you turn the volume higher, keep this in mind. Protect your valuable ears while you can, before you pay for it. Don’t take your ears for granted!
What is Progressive Hearing Loss?
Progressive hearing loss is when a mild or moderate hearing loss has been diagnosed and it worsens over time. Initially, it might start with a mild hearing loss that can worsen to a moderate or severe or even profound hearing loss over time. The change in hearing can occur over the years, months or even a few weeks. Sometimes a child might be born with normal hearing, but might begin to lose his or her hearing within 2-3 years. This is known as delayed onset hearing loss, which happens when a child is born with a virus that is not detected at birth until it shows up through various symptoms and conditions later. There might also be other problems at birth which can cause delayed onset hearing loss in children.
Progressive Hearing Loss in Children
The term ‘progressive hearing loss’ might crop up a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. Since this cannot be identified by the children themselves, or even if identified, children won’t be able to express it properly, it is the duty of their parents to take notice of it and be informed about any changes in hearing. A single change might affect speech and language development in children, thus affecting developmental skills. Talk to your audiologist and routinely do your child’s hearing test and monitor any changes to take action as advised by your audiologist on an urgent basis.
What are the Causes?
One or more of the following causes might lead to progressive hearing loss in children -
Certain illnesses like Meningitis causes hearing loss in children and which usually worsens over time
Middle ear infections like Otitis media
Certain ototoxic medicines might worsen the hearing abilities of a child, and it might continue worsening even after the child has stopped taking them
What are the Symptoms?
In children, progressive hearing loss might come along with the following symptoms -
The child is unable to hear what he or she was able to before
He or she often says ‘what?’ a lot more in the recent days than before
The child’s speech and language skills change (generally towards deterioration)
The child’s audiogram report changes from time to time and gradually becomes worse
Your child wants to hear the TV or the radio or to his or her favourite music louder than before
If your child is a user of hearing aids, he or she suddenly doesn’t want to wear them but before he or she didn’t mind wearing them
Your child is often complaining about getting dizzy or losing his or her balance
Your child has recently started facing problems at school due to her hearing loss.
If you notice some or all of the above symptoms, talk to your audiologist immediately. Perform a routine hearing check-up and go for some effective treatment of hearing loss or make improvements in it if your child is already a part of one. Do as suggested by your audiologist. He or she is the best judge in this case. Nobody else can understand your child’s hearing needs better.
What is the Solution?
Children with progressive hearing loss are generally treated with either of the two traditional and effective methods of hearing loss treatment - hearing aids or cochlear implants. For very young children who are yet to learn and develop speech and language skills are generally implanted with cochlear devices, which are very effective and helps the child to compete with his or her peers with normal hearing in developing communication skills well.
Talk to your child and tell him or her not to fear or worry about anything and that everything will be alright. Give your child the support he or she needs and never let him or her feel depressed. Make sure that you go for strong hearing aids to support his hearing abilities so that his or her speech and language skills are not hampered. Don’t compromise with anything here. And if your child is suffering from severe to profound hearing loss, then your audiologist might want to go for cochlear implantation. Do as required and as suggested because you can’t afford to ruin your child's future in any way. Keep a good track of your child’s activities at school and his or her progress in academics. In the meanwhile, you too have to be mentally strong. Talking to other parents, teachers, counsellors and of course, your audiologist might help.
Progressive Hearing Loss in Adults
High-frequency progressive hearing loss in adults happens gradually over time as the person begins to age, the condition which is termed as presbycusis. It happens due to damage caused to the tiny and sensitive hair cells in the cochlea of the inner ear. These little hair cells are responsible for hearing as they receive the sound vibrations as received from the outer ear after travelling via the middle ear where these sound signals are being amplified, and convert them into electrical impulses. These electrical signals are then sent to the brain via the auditory nerve where they are perceived as sounds.
If the hair cells are damaged, they won’t be able to convert these sound signals properly, thus would fail to transfer proper electrical signals to the brain. This would lead to hearing problems, and if this continues (that is if you leave your hearing loss untreated) it worsens the condition of your brain, thus gradually making it inactive. An inactive or dormant brain would fail to perceive sounds properly even if it receives sounds after a long time. This condition is known as Auditory Deprivation, in which the brain fails to recognise any sounds even if a person wears hearing aids. It needs time to adjust to this ‘new’ world of sounds from which it was deprived of for so long. This is why people often say that they can’t understand even if they can hear, especially while trying to comprehend speech.
Hair cells in the cochlea might be damaged or even lost due to overexposure to extremely loud decibels of noises. This happens over time and the process is so gradual that it often goes unnoticed until the damage is already done and that’s when the person already starts various problems related to hearing in his or her day-to-day life.
Symptoms of Prescubysis
Difficulty hearing high-frequency or high-pitched sounds, such as a whistle, a squeal, a scream, a child or woman’s voice, and consonant sounds like S, F, Th, Sh, V, K, and P.
Difficulty following conversations over the phone
Having the feeling that people are mumbling
Difficulty following conversations while in noisy listening situations, as your ears are unable to distinguish words in speech
Having the need to turn up the TV or radio volume more than usual and which is too loud for the other members of your family
Tinnitus or hearing ringing or hissing sounds even in the absence of any external sound
We have covered a detailed blog over the early signs of hearing loss. Do check it out once in the link that follows: https://hearingplus.in/ourblog/Do-I-Have-Hearing-Loss-5-Early-Signs-and-Symptoms
Hearing loss treatment options like hearing aids might help a person with presbycusis or age-related hearing loss. However, he or she might also require auditory-verbal therapy (AVT) or speech therapy to help him or her to understand the semantic meaning of what he or she is listening, especially in speech.
We have a separate blog on age-related hearing loss, do consider going through it once to learn about the causes and how to deal with it: https://hearingplus.in/ourblog/Ageing_and_Hearing_Loss
The best part about presbycusis is it is preventable. It is true that people are going to experience some kind of hearing problems as they start ageing. But you can take care to prevent it for as long as possible. In short, you can delay it and even lessen the impacts of hearing loss in old age. So take care of your precious pair of organs while you can and stay healthy.