Over 1.5 billion people (nearly 20% of the global population) live with hearing loss globally, a number that could rise to over 2.5 billion by 2030. Also, more than 1 billion young people (25-35years old) are at risk of hearing loss due to recreational exposure to loud sound.
What is hearing loss?
According to WHO, a person is said to have hearing loss if they are not able to hear as well as someone with normal hearing. This means hearing thresholds of 20 dB or better in both ears. It can be mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe or profound, and can affect one or both ears. Major causes of hearing loss(one of the major ENT complications) include congenital or early onset childhood hearing loss, chronic middle ear infections, noise-induced hearing loss, age-related hearing loss, and ototoxic drugs that damage the inner ear.
Statistics from WHO show that over 1.5 billion people (nearly 20% of the global population) live with hearing loss globally, a number that could rise to over 2.5 billion by 2030. Also, more than 1 billion young people (25-35years old) are at risk of hearing loss due to recreational exposure to loud sound.
What causes hearing loss?
Major causes of hearing loss include
- Congenital or early onset childhood hearing loss
- Chronic middle ear infections
- Noise-induced hearing loss
- Age-related hearing loss
- Ototoxic drugs that damage the inner ear. In children, the most common type of hearing loss is due to fluid being trapped behind the eardrum, a condition known as glue ear, or Otitis Media with Effusion (OME). The fluid therefore stops the eardrum from vibrating thus sound is not transmitted to the brain.
What are the types of hearing loss?
Hearing loss comes in many forms, ranging from a mild loss, where a person misses certain high-pitched sounds, to a total loss of hearing.
Hearing loss is categorized into two:
- Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve. This type of hearing loss is usually permanent.
- Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves cannot reach the inner ear. The cause may be earwax build-up, fluid, or a punctured eardrum. Medical treatment or surgery can usually restore conductive hearing loss.
Sudden sensorineural hearing loss, or sudden deafness, is a rapid loss of hearing. It can happen to a person all at once or over a period of up to 3 days. It should therefore be considered a medical emergency.
Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, comes on gradually as a person gets older. It seems to be genetic and may occur because of changes in the inner ear and auditory nerve. Presbycusis may make it hard for a person to tolerate loud sounds or to hear what others are saying, and it happens gradually such that a person may not realize they have lost their hearing ability.
How do I know I have hearing loss?
Most adults may have difficulty in following conversations when there is background noise or when more than one person is talking. If you often ask people to repeat what they are saying or feel the need to turn up the TV volume that makes others complain.
In children, parents may find them inattentive, or ignore instructions or appear naughty. Listening to the television at high volumes is common and sometimes the child’s teachers will complain about their hearing abilities being below average. Young children with delayed speech production should always be assessed for hearing loss.
How do I cope with hearing loss?
The most important thing you can do if you think you have a hearing problem is to seek professional advice. Your family doctor may be able to diagnose and treat your hearing problem. However, if you have trouble hearing, you should:
- Let people know you have a hearing problem.
- Ask people to face you and to speak more slowly and clearly. Also, ask them to speak louder without shouting.
- Pay attention to facial expressions or gestures.
- Let the person talking know if you do not understand what they said.
Your doctor or specialist may suggest you get a hearing aid. Hearing aids are electronic, battery-run devices that make sounds louder. They come in different sizes and types to suit different users and hearing needs. The technology in hearing aids is always improving to make them more discreet and offer better sound quality. Your doctor will be able to refer you to our audiology unit for assessment and fitting of hearing aids.
For some patients with specific types of hearing loss a surgically implanted hearing devices may be advised. These devices include bone anchored hearing aids and cochlear implants. With modern surgery and high technology, ENT surgeons are able to offer even the most severely deaf patients useful hearing. There is a hearing restoration solution available for almost everyone who has hearing impairment.