Types of Hearing Loss – The Facts

One of the more distressing facts about hearing loss is that it can occur in subjects of any age and is not, as so many are inclined to believe, simply a problem of the senior citizen. While growing older is invariably accompanied by some deterioration in auditory efficiency, the condition is certainly not unique to those of advancing years and can even be a problem that is present from birth though, more often than not, it will only become obvious much later.

In most case, however, following the onset which may not, at first, be consciously noticed, it tends to be a relatively slow, progressive process. Quite often, it is the result of some underlying but readily rectifiable condition that, once treated, will result in the return of normal auditory function. It may affect either just one or both ears and it can differ very widely in its severity from quite mild condition that results in only minor inconvenience, to profound deafness in which the subject is totally unable to perceive any sound at all.

Though deafness may be the effect of a wide variety of causes, it may be conveniently categorised into three types – conductive, sensorineural and mixed, in which both of aforementioned types occur in the same patient. In addition, it is also classified as unilateral or bilateral and graded, following audiology examination at a specialised clinic such as The Ear Institute, according to the severity of impairment

Conductive Deafness

On examination, the facts may indicate that the hearing loss arises from the failure of sound to reach the sensory apparatus in the inner ear. In such cases, the cause will be some form of obstruction of the ear canal or middle ear chamber or, perhaps damage to the eardrum. Alternatively an injury to the tiny bones or ossicles that are responsible for conducting sound between the eardrum and the window of the cochlea will also prevent the onward transmission of the vibrations resulting from sound waves.

Acute infections of the middle and external ear are a common cause, especially in babies, and treatment with an antibiotic will normally see the temporary malfunction caused by accumulated pus or burst eardrum, readily reversed. Since chronic cases have the potential to cause permanent impairment, they may need more stringent treatment and perhaps preventative measures such as grommets or removal of tonsils and adenoids.

Sensorineural Deafness

In this type of condition, though sounds may be conducted normally, the vibrations reaching the cochlea and agitating the fluid within fail to generate a neural impulse to the brain because the organ’s hair-like sensory cells are damaged. Infants may be a developmental defect or the result of congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) while, later in life, the damage may be caused by medication, drugs and other ototoxic substances. Most commonly, however, it arises from prolonged and repeated exposure to the loud noise encountered in locations such as factories, airports and, in the case of many younger victims, discotheques.

The condition is cumulative and reversal is only possible given sufficient quiet time for damaged cells to recover. As with most forms of auditory impairment, it is normally accompanied by tinnitus. Even where impairment is permanent, most hearing loss will benefit from an amplification device. Get the facts from The Ear Institute.

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