Hearing impairment, deafness or hearing loss refers to the inability to hear sounds completely or partially.

Symptoms might range from mild to moderate and severe to profound. Patients with slight hearing loss may have difficulty understanding speech, especially if there is a lot of background noise, but those with moderate deafness may require a hearing aid. Some people are profoundly deaf and must rely on lip-reading to communicate. People who are profoundly deaf are unable to hear anything and must rely solely on lip-reading or sign language to communicate.

But first, How Does Your Hearing Work?

Sound waves enter the ear, travel through the auditory canal and hit the vibrating eardrum. The ossicles are three bones in the middle ear that receive vibrations from the eardrum. The vibrations are amplified by these ossicles, which are picked up by tiny hair-like cells in the cochlea.

When the vibrations hit them, they move, and the movement data is conveyed to the brain via the auditory nerve. The data is processed by the brain, and a person with functional hearing interprets it as sound.

Types of hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss: This suggests that vibrations are not traveling from the outer to the inner ear, specifically the cochlea. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Built up earwax
  • Glue ear
  • Ear infections
  • Malfunction of the ossicles
  • Ruptured eardrum

Scar tissue can form as a result of ear infections, which can impair eardrum function. Infection, trauma or fusing together in a disease known as ankylosis can cause the ossicles to become damaged.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is caused by inner ear failure, cochlea dysfunction, auditory nerve damage or brain damage. Damaged hair cells in the cochlea are usually the cause of this type of hearing loss. Hair cells lose some of their function as people age, and you can experience hearing loss as a result.

Another major cause of hair cell destruction is long-term exposure to loud noises, particularly high-frequency sounds. Hair cells that have been damaged cannot be replaced. Currently, scientists are investigating the use of stem cells to generate new hair cells. Congenital abnormalities, inner ear infections and head trauma can all cause sensorineural total deafness.

Combination Hearing Loss

This is a hearing loss that is both conductive and sensorineural. Ear infections that last for a long time can harm both the eardrum and the ossicles. Surgical intervention can help restore hearing in some cases, although it is not always successful.

Symptoms of Hearing Loss

The signs and symptoms of hearing loss vary depending on the cause. Some people are born deaf, while others lose their hearing as a result of an accident or sickness. Deafness symptoms usually worsen over time for most people.

However, if you notice any type of hearing loss, even if it was temporary, it’s important to have your ears checked out. Make an appointment with an audiologist and they will conduct a thorough examination on your ears. The earlier you catch any problems, the more likely you can treat your hearing loss with hearing aids and still enjoy your hearing.