Hearing impairment is condition of difficulty in hearing that may be permanent or fluctuating. Difficulty in hearing can adversely affect a person’s daily life and his performance. Anyone can suffer from hearing loss. The patient may be unable to hear sound completely or partially in one or both the ears. Hearing impairment can be since birth or may develop at any stage of life. At least 25 percent of people aged above 65 to 70 years have some amount of hearing loss.
The ear is divided into three parts, the outer, middle and the inner ear.The outer ear is visible to eyes. Inner ear is located just behind the eardrum. It is made up of three tiny bones. The inner ear is made of cochlea or the spiral tube and auditory nerve which transmit sound waves to the brain. Hearing loss can develop due to damage to the auditory nerve or may be related with age or trauma.
Treatment consists of removal of wax from ears, use of antibiotics if infection is the cause. Some patients having severe hearing impairment may need hearing aid or cochlear implant for better hearing.
Common Causes Of Hearing Impairment
Hearing impairment can develop due to several causes. It can be as trivial as impacted wax in the ear canal or may be serious due to nerve damage. Birth defects, drug interaction and genetics also play a role in causing hearing loss. Following are some of the causes:
- Impacted wax in the ear canal can cause temporary hearing impairment. Once the ear is cleaned of wax, person starts to hear normally.
- Exposure to loud noise can lead to hearing difficulty. If the person is exposed frequently to loud noise, it can lead to permanent hearing loss.
- Trauma to ear and skull bone.
- Infection in the middle ear for long time. Infection can be caused by bacteria, fungus or virus.
- Impacted foreign object in the ear canal.
- Rupture of eardrum due to trauma.
- Acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor near the auditory nerve. This growth can obstruct sound waves and can lead to hearing impairment.
- Age related hearing loss is most common. Many people over the age of 65 are known to have some difficulty in hearing.
- Certain medicines are known to be ototoxic. They can damage the auditory nerve leading to sensorineural hearing loss.
Symptoms Of Hearing Impairment
Hearing impairment normally develops gradually. Initially the person may not experience any change in hearing. In some cases there may be associated symptoms of other conditions. For example if infection is the cause, there may be discharge of pus from ear.
Following are the symptoms that may develop due to hearing impairment:
- Hearing impairment causing interference in daily activity.
- Difficulty in hearing in one ear.
- Ringing sound in ear.
- Pain and discharge of pus from ear due to infection.
- Patient asks other person to repeat the same sentence or word as he finds difficulty to hear and understand.
- Turning the volume of TV or radio loud.
- Trouble to hear properly on telephone.
- Feels as if other person is mumbling when actually he is speaking.
- Person is told by others that is has hearing loss as the patient finds difficulty in hearing what is said by others.
- Due to hearing impairment, patient avoids social functions that he may have enjoyed once.
Treatment Options For Hearing Impairment
Hearing impairment can be due to many underlying causes. Hence the treatment may be focused on addressing the underlying pathology. If hearing problem is caused due to infection, patient may be advised to take antibiotics by his doctor to cure the infection.
If there is an impacted object inside the ear canal, it has to be removed. After removal of impacted wax, patient starts hearing clearly. Wax is removed with the use of over the counter wax softener solutions or with the use of water and syringe.
Some patients may need hearing aid and cochlear implant for better hearing. Certain home remedies such as fish oil which contains omega 3 fatty acids is beneficial in improving hearing. Acupressure and acupuncture are other alternative therapies that may benefit in people who have hearing impairment.