Hearing Loss – Its Causes, its Detection and its Treatment
The term hearing loss is something of a generic one in the sense that it describes an effect that can result from a variety of possible causes. It is, most often, a fairly gradual process and the degree of impairment can progress until it is quite pronounced before the subject eventually becomes aware of his or her condition. Occasionally, however, the onset may be quite sudden and can prove very distressing to the person affected.
The More Common Causes
Total deafness can, on relatively rare occasions, present as an inherited condition arising from some genetic defect while newly born babies may also experience varying degrees of hearing loss as the result of some trauma associated with the birthing process or as a secondary effect of an infection in the mother either during her pregnancy or at full term. More commonly, however, impaired audition is a condition in which the onset is seen to occur during early childhood, youth or adulthood rather than in infancy.
Typically, auditory acuity starts to diminish from the third decade of life. The process, known as presbycusis, is a slow one which, under normal circumstances, rarely leads to any significant impairment for at least a further three decades and even longer.
Ear infections are frequently accompanied by temporary hearing loss that is reversible with treatment, although repeated and chronic infections can cause more permanent damage if ignored. Certain medicines, childhood ailments such as measles, toxic chemicals and even some antibiotics can all cause deafness but it is excessive noise that is the most common culprit today.
The Detection of Auditory Impairment
Wherever there may be cause for concern, it is advisable to arrange for the subject to undergo an audiological examination. In addition, some paediatricians now recommend that all newborns should also be examined as a matter of routine. Certainly, in young subjects, the early detection of any significant degree of hearing loss could prove crucial to the development of the essential language skills that they will later depend upon for their education and subsequent employment.
The Ear Institute provides advanced audiology services and some of our clinics are equipped to meet paediatric needs. You will be examined by well-qualified and experienced healthcare professionals using the very latest methods and equipment. The test procedures are non-invasive and their results are highly reliable and so ensure our patients of the best possible outcomes. No referral by a general practitioner will be necessary and all of the charges relating to the detection and treatment of hearing loss comply with approved tariffs of all the major medical aid schemes.
The Treatment Options
The audiologist measures a subject’s ability to detect sounds across the range of frequencies audible to humans and compares the minimum volume at which he or she can detect them with the norm. The information obtained is then used to tune a hearing aid so as to address only the frequencies affected. In this way, the normal balance of frequencies is maintained and results in natural speech while advanced processing removes background interference to improve clarity.
Not all subjects are able to gain sufficient benefit from an acoustic aid, however. For the majority of these, including children, cochlear implants offer a safe and effective means to manage hearing loss.