Hearing Loss is Often Preventable and, In Most Cases, Manageable

Although hearing loss is on the increase, many cases could be prevented with a few basic precautions. Where such preventative measures have proved inadequate or were simply not followed, there are highly effective options available by which to manage the condition and to protect the patient from any further deterioration.

Prevention, of course is always far preferable to cure and since, in the case of deafness there is, as yet, no means to actually reverse the damage, in this instance, it can be essential to adopt some simple precautionary measures. To begin with, the first step may be to do your best to avoid prolonged exposure to loud noise. Since legislation dictates protection in the workplace, this precaution begins at home.

Next time you settle down to watch some post-apocalyptic movie on DVD or Blu-ray, try turning the volume down by several notches. Your ears will certainly benefit from the reduced assault on their delicate mechanisms that, inevitably, will lead to eventual hearing loss and your neighbours will probably appreciate the respite too. Surround sound, car stereos, discotheques, night clubs and iPods, especially when fitted with the in-ear type of earphones, have now overtaken factories and jet engines as the leading causes of noise-related deafness as well as contributing to the markedly lower average age of those subjects who are now seen to be afflicted with it.

In addition to acoustic shock, ear infections present one of the most significant alternative risks to auditory function and are especially prevalent in infants and young children. They affect the outer and middle ear mainly and are a common secondary complication of colds and flu although primary infections do also occur. Blurred and fuzzy sounds are the usual manifestations of the temporary hearing loss that invariably accompanies these conditions. However, in the majority of cases, completing a course of a suitable antibiotic will serve to clear both the infection and the accompanying aural malfunction.

It is especially important to monitor patients that suffer repeated infections as, if the condition is allowed to become chronic; the risk of more permanent deafness is significantly higher. When a baby becomes infected it may show little more than a slight fever, a redness of the outer ear and a tendency to keep touching it. This means that parents need to be especially vigilant and not hesitate to seek advice from a GP or ENT specialist whenever they observe symptoms that may lead them to suspect that their child may be suffering from an ear infection.

Hearing loss may arise from exposure to toxic chemicals or the use of particular medications that, somewhat ironically, may include certain types of antibiotic. While these too may often be reversed or at least halted by eliminating further exposure to the causative agent, this is not always the case and such cases call for appropriate management measures to compensate for the deafness and to halt any further deterioration.

The Ear Institute operates 19 clinics in South Africa where anyone concerned about their auditory health may receive intensive testing by trained audiologists who will determine the nature and extent of impairment and recommend an appropriate course of action such as referral to an ENT specialist or an electronic aid to manage hearing loss. 

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