Human beings are blessed with five senses such as touch, vision, hearing, taste and smell. These senses are very essential for living a normal life. Ability to hear is one of these important senses, through which we can communicate with others and enjoy our favorite movies and music. Unfortunately, some people lose their hearing ability because of certain reasons. There may be total or partial loss of hearing ability of one or both ears. The level of hearing impairment can be mild, moderate or severe. It not only affects your health, but also your lifestyle.
Types of Hearing Impairment
There are two main types of hearing impairment - conductive and sensorineural. Conductive hearing impairment is associated with outer or middle ear. It results from a movement of sound waves through the ear; for example, blockage of the ear canal. Some possible causes of conductive hearing loss are foreign body or hematoma, obstructed external ear canal due to cerumen, otitis media or blast injury and perforated tympanic membrane due to direct trauma.
Sensorineural hearing impairment is generally related to the inner ear. It is caused by damage to cells or nerves of ear that sense the sound waves. Some of the common causes for this type of hearing loss are barotraumas or ear squeeze, acoustic trauma due to prolonged exposure to loud noises, ototoxic drugs such as antibiotics (gentamicin, erythromycins), head trauma (fracture of temporal bone), diuretics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
You should know the exact reasons that result in impairment in the ear in order to get an appropriate treatment. There may be a significant impact on a child's language, speech, social integration and education due to hearing impairment. The most common causes include some genetic, congenital, infectious, traumatic, toxic, occupational and age-related factors.
- Hearing impairment can be hereditary. Children of one or both deaf parents are at higher risk of developing this disorder. Some genetic conditions are osteogenesis imperfecta, Cockayne syndrome, Hurler syndrome, Hunter syndrome, hereditary nephritis, etc.
- Hearing impairment is also due to some congenital factors such as premature birth, fetal iodine deficiency effects, use of ototoxic drugs, rubella, syphilis, jaundice and the conditions during the birth in which a baby lacks enough oxygen to breathe.
- Ear infection is one of the most common causes of hearing impairment. Middle ear infection (otitis media) causes swelling of inner lining of middle ear and accumulation of fluid. Another common ear infection leading to hearing loss is infection of ear canal (otitis externa or swimmer's ear). Some infectious diseases such as measles, meningitis and mumps can also lead to hearing impairment.
- Aging is the most significant cause of this ear condition. It is also known as age-related hearing loss or presbycusis. Most people start to lose a small amount of hearing ability in their middle age and they experience a remarkable hearing impairment in their old age. Age-related hearing loss is because of damage to hair cells within the cochlea, due to which electrical signals are not transmitted efficiently.
- Another common cause of hearing impairment is damage to ear from loud noises. Due to continuous exposure to extremely loud noises, a delicate structure of the inner ear is injured, leading to hearing loss. People working in a loud environment (such as nightclub or discotheque staff) are at a greater risk of developing this problem.
- Use of ototoxic drugs such as some antibiotics and anti-malarial drugs can damage the cochlea. It causes hearing loss at any age.
- Traumatic injury such as skull fracture (temporal bone), traumatic perforation of eardrum, barotraumas (differences in pressure) and acoustic trauma such as fireworks, rock concerts, gunfire, explosions and earphones can lead to hearing impairment.
- Some common causes for temporary hearing loss are accumulation of wax in the ear canal, blocked Eustachian tubes, allergy, foreign body lodged in the ear canal, head injury and scarred or perforated eardrum.
If you are unable to diagnose this impairment by yourself, it is recommended you seek help from your medical health practitioner to avoid further complications.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.