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Hearing loss

Definition


Disease: Hearing loss Hearing loss
Category: Ear, nose, larynx diseases
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Disease Definition:

The gradual hearing loss that occurs as a person ages (presbycusis) is quite common.
Heredity and chronic exposure to loud noises are believed to be the main factors that contribute to hearing loss over time. Earwax blockage or other factors could prevent a person's ears from conducting sounds as well as they should.

Although hearing loss cannot be reversed, however, a person can with a doctor or hearing specialist to improve their hearing.

Work Group:


Prepared by: Scientific Section

Symptoms, Causes

Symptoms:

These are some of the signs and symptoms of hearing loss:
-    Muffled quality of speech and other sounds
-    Needing to turn up the volume of the television or radio
-    Difficulty understanding words, especially against background noise or in a crowd of people.
-    Avoidance of some social settings
-    Withdrawal from conversations
-    Frequently asking others to speak more slowly, clearly and loudly.


In case someone has difficulty hearing, they should talk to a doctor.
In case a person finds him/herself having to turn the volume higher when listening to music, radio or television, if they find that it's harder to understand everything that's being said in a conversation particularly when there's background noise, or if sounds seem muffled to them, this means that their hearing may have deteriorated.

Causes:

HEARING
Hearing occurs when sound waves reach the structures inside the ear where the sound wave vibrations are converted into nerve signals that the brain recognizes as sound.

There are three major areas in the ear: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. Sound waves pass through the outer ear and cause vibrations at the eardrum. As they travel to the inner ear, the vibrations will be amplified by the eardrum and three small bones of the middle ear, which are the hammer, anvil and stirrup. There, the vibrations will pass through fluid in the cochlea, which is a snail-shaped structure in the inner ear.

There are thousands of tiny hairs attached to nerve cells in the cochlea that help translate sound vibrations into electrical signals that are transmitted to the brain. The vibrations of different sound will affect these tiny hairs in different ways and cause the nerve cells to send different signals to the brain. This is how one sound is distinguished from another.


THE CAUSES OF HEARING LOSS
Earwax blockage is a cause of hearing loss among people of all ages. The ear canal will be blocked and the conduction of sound waves prevented by the gradual buildup of earwax.

However, the usual cause of hearing loss is damage to the inner ear. Prolonged exposure to loud noises and aging could cause wear and tear on the hairs or nerve cells in the cochlea that send sound signals to the brain. Electrical signals aren't transmitted efficiently when these hairs or nerve cells are damaged or missing. This causes hearing loss. It may become quite difficult for someone to pick out words against background noise, and higher pitched tones may become muffled. Heredity may make a person more susceptible to hearing loss.

Hearing loss could be due to ear infection and abnormal bone growths or tumors of the outer or middle ear. Hearing loss could also be due to a ruptured eardrum.

Complications

Complications:

Someone's quality of life can be significantly affected by hearing loss. These are some of the commonly reported problems among older adults:
-    Anxiety
-    Depression
-    A false sense that others are angry with them, which occurs often.

Most people that are affected by hearing loss never seek treatment, or they live with these difficulties for years before seeking treatment. If a person tries to cope by denying their hearing loss or withdrawing from social interactions, it could cause lasting problems for them and their loved ones.

A person's quality of life can be dramatically improved if they get treatment. These are some of the benefits that are reported by people who use hearing aids:
-    An overall improved outlook on life
-    Greater self-confidence
-    Closer relationships with loved ones

Treatments:

In case someone's having hearing problems, he/she could get help. Based on the cause and severity of the hearing loss, treatment will be determined.

Some of the available options include:

Removing wax blockage:
One of the common reversible causes of hearing loss is earwax blockage. The earwax could be removed by loosening it with oil and then flushing, scooping or suctioning the softened wax out.

Cochlear implants:
A cochlear implant could be an option for if someone has severe hearing loss. A cochlear implant compensates for damaged or nonworking parts of the inner ear. In case someone is considering a cochlear implant, they should discuss the pros and cons with their audiologist, along with a medical doctor who specializes in disorders of the ears, nose and throat (ENT).

Hearing aids:
A hearing aid could be helpful by making sounds stronger and easier to hear. This will be beneficial in case someone's hearing loss is due to damage to their inner ear. A person should discuss the potential benefits of using a hearing aid with an audiologist who will also recommend a device and fit the person with it. A person can use an inexpensive, over-the-ear microphone device that is available at electronic stores. To find the device that works best, more than one device may have to be tried.

Prognosis:

Not available

Expert's opinion

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