Hearing impairment, deafness, or hearing loss refers to the total or partial inability to hear sounds.
Symptoms may be mild, moderate, severe, or profound. A patient with a mild hearing impairment may have problems understanding speech, especially if there is a lot of noise around, while those with moderate deafness may need a hearing aid.
Some people are severely deaf and rely on lip-reading to communicate with others. People who are profoundly deaf can hear nothing at all and can find themselves totally reliant on lip-reading or sign language.
It is important to distinguish between the different levels of hearing loss.
Hearing loss: This is a reduced ability to hear sounds in the same way as other people.
Deafness: This occurs when a person cannot understand speech through hearing, even when sound is amplified.
Profound deafness: This refers to a total lack of hearing. An individual with profound deafness is unable to detect sound at all.
The severity of hearing impairment is categorized by how much louder volumes need to be set at before they can detect a sound.
Some people define profoundly deaf and totally deaf in the same way, while others say that a diagnosis of profound deafness is the end of the hearing spectrum.
The symptoms of hearing impairment depend on its cause. Some people are born without being able to hear, while others suddenly become deaf due to an accident or illness. For most people, symptoms of deafness progress gradually over time.
Some conditions may have hearing loss as a symptom, such as tinnitus or stroke.
The following signs may indicate a hearing problem:
These signs might become more evident in slightly older children:
There are four levels of deafness or hearing impairment. These are:
Mild deafness or mild hearing impairment: The person can only detect sounds between 25 and 29 decibels (dB). They may find it hard to understand the words other people are saying, especially if there is a lot of background noise.
Moderate deafness or moderate hearing impairment: The person can only detect sounds between 40 and 69 dB. Following a conversation using hearing alone is very difficult without using a hearing aid.
Severe deafness: The person only hears sounds above 70 to 89 dB. A severely deaf person must either lip-read or use sign language in order to communicate, even if they have a hearing aid.
Profound deafness: Anybody who cannot hear a sound below 90dB has profound deafness. Some people with profound deafness cannot hear anything at all, at any decibel level. Communication is carried out using sign language, lip-reading, or reading and writing.
Help is available for people with all types of hearing loss. Treatment depends on both the cause and severity of the deafness.
Sensorineural hearing loss is incurable. When the hair cells in the cochlea are damaged, they cannot be repaired. However, various treatments and strategies can help improve quality of life.
Share on PinterestHearing aids can help to improve hearing and quality of life.
These are wearable devices that assist hearing.
There are several types of hearing aid. They come in a range of sizes, circuitries, and levels of power. Hearing aids do not cure deafness but amplify the sound that enters the ear so that the listener can hear more clearly.
Hearing aids consist of a battery, loudspeaker, amplifier, and microphone. Today, they are very small, discreet, and can fit inside the ear. Many modern versions can distinguish background noise from foreground sounds, such as speech.
A hearing aid is not suitable for a person with profound deafness.
The audiologist takes an impression of the ear to make sure the device fits well. It will be adjusted to suit auditory requirements.
Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids: These consist of a dome called an earmold and a case, with a connection linking one to the other. The case sits behind the outer ear, with the connection to the dome coming down the front of the ear. The sound from the device is either electrically or acoustically routed to the ear.
BTE hearing aids tend to last longer than other devices, as the electrical components are located outside the ear, meaning that there is less moisture and earwax damage These devices are more popular with children who need a sturdy and easy-to-use device.
In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids: These fill the outer part of the ear canal and can be seen. Soft ear inserts, usually made of silicone, are used to position the loudspeaker inside the ear. These devices fit most patients straight away and have better sound quality.
Completely in the canal (CIC) hearing aids: These are tiny, discreet devices but not recommended for people with severe hearing loss.
Bone conduction hearing aids: These assist people with conductive hearing loss, as well as those unable to wear conventional type hearing aids. The vibrating part of the device is held against the mastoid with a headband. The vibrations go through the mastoid bone, to the cochlea. These devices can be painful or uncomfortable if worn for too long.
Cochlear implants: If the eardrum and middle ear are functioning correctly, a person may benefit from a cochlear implant.
This thin electrode is inserted into the cochlea. It stimulates electricity through a tiny microprocessor placed under the skin behind the ear.
A cochlear implant is inserted to help patients whose hearing impairment is caused by hair cell damage in the cochlea. The implants usually improve speech comprehension. The latest cochlear implants have new technology that helps patients enjoy music, understand speech better even with background noise, and use their processors while they are swimming.
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