The Causes and Treatment of Hearing Damage

Impaired auditory function is a common condition that, in the past, was more common among the elderly and seen as a natural consequence of aging. In fact, neither of these assertions is strictly, true. Not only do many older people retain excellent auditory function but hearing damage has, in recent years, become more prevalent among younger people.

The condition varies in terms of its severity which can be measured using a special instrument known as an audiometer. These machines are able to check for a variety of anomalies such as the inability to distinguish speech from background noise, to recognise differences in pitch or the need for amplification in order to detect sounds at their normally detectable volumes.

The measurement of the amplification needed to render various sounds audible to a subject can be used to quantify the degree of impairment that he or she may be experiencing. Impairment is measured in decibels of hearing loss (dB HL) and the classifications used range from mild, at between 20 and 40 dB, through moderate, moderately severe and severe to profound at 91dB. At levels beyond this, subjects are regarded as totally deaf and show no signs of auditory function at all.

The causes of impairment are manifold and certainly advancing age is a common one. It is typified by a reduced ability to distinguish higher frequencies that often arises much earlier in life but that only presents measurable difficulties later. As much as 5% of the world population suffers hearing damage due to noise. Among those most likely to be afflicted are factory workers, people living close to an airport or a busy motorway and, alarmingly, young people that regularly attend discos or enjoy extra loud music in the confines of their cars. Anyone that experiences prolonged and repeated exposure to levels of sound greater than 65 dB is definitely at risk.

Genetics, too, can play a role in the propagation of auditory insufficiency. Inherited deafness may vary in degree and is subject to the influence of both dominant and recessive genes. The former may give rise to the conditions known as Stickler Syndrome and Waardenburg Syndrome while recessive genes can cause the syndromes of Pendred and Usher.

Common childhood illnesses such as measles and mumps as well as congenital and sexually transmitted conditions like Chlamydia or HIV/AIDS and Syphilis are all known causes of auditory impairment while foetal alcohol syndrome can affect up to 64% of children born to alcoholic mothers. The use of both illegal drugs and prescribed medications, particularly the antibiotic Gentamycin and certain platinum-based chemotherapy agents, can also lead to varying degrees of deafness and even aspirin has been implicated though the resulting impairment appears to be reversible.

Ear Institute is managed healthcare provider that specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of auditory defects. It currently operates out of 19 centres located throughout the Republic of South Africa and its neighbour, Namibia. Among the services offered by the institute is basic diagnostic testing, including audiometry that may subsequently lead to the supply of an appropriate auditory aid or a referral to an ENT specialist for further investigation, depending upon the findings.

For thorough evaluation and resolution of hearing damage arising from most causes, Ear Institute offers a vital, professional service to you.

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