Hearing Loss and Disorders of the EarAbility India
Types of Hearing Loss
Conductive Loss: Conductive hearing losses are those that result from some type of outer or middle ear blockage. There is a barrier to sound being conducted into the inner ear and thus a hearing loss result. Common causes of conductive losses are ear wax, perforations (hole) of the ear drum, fluid in the middle ear or calcium build up on or loss of one of the bones of the middle ear. Conductive hearing losses can be managed medically through antibiotics or surgery. In most cases, after medical treatment, hearing is restored to normal or near normal.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss: Sensorineural hearing losses are the most common type of hearing losses. These losses occur due to damage of the hair cells in the inner ear. These losses can be caused by aging, genetics, noise exposure, trauma or any combination of the above. Unlike conductive hearing losses, sensorineural hearing losses can not be medically managed. The only help for hearing better is hearing aids.
Mixed Hearing Loss: Mixed hearing losses as their name suggests are a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing losses. These losses are the result of a barrier in the outer or middle ear and damage to the hair cells of the inner ear. The conductive portion of this loss may be managed medically but the sensorineural portion will still require amplification to improve hearing. Possible causes of mixed hearing losses include outer ear infection with damaged inner hair cells or ear wax and loss of outer hair cells in the inner ear.
Disorders of the Outer Ear
Impacted Earwax: Every ear produces earwax (or cerumen). Many people who wear hearing aids consider earwax a nuisance since it often plugs up receivers or earmolds. Cerumen, however, is important for healthy ears. Wax lubricates, repels water and protects the ear by trapping foreign materials such as dust. Usually excess wax falls out of our ears as we sleep or chew. Unfortunately, those of us who wear hearing aids plug up our ears preventing this wax from falling out. As wax builds up in our ears and gets pushed and compacted deep into our ear canals as we insert hearing aids or earmolds, discomfort or even an increase in hearing loss can occur. The discomfort is due to the pressing of the compacted wax against the walls of the canal. Hearing loss results when the wax becomes so thick and compressed that it acts like a wax earplug.
External Otitis: This is an infection in the skin of the auditory canal. It is often referred to as “Swimmer’s ear.” At first, it can be irritating and itchy and then can become painful. This problem can be treated with eardrops or with antibiotics.
Perforated Ear Drum: This is when a hole, or perforation, occurs in the ear drum. These holes can result from sharp objects being pushed through the ear drum or pressure behind the ear drum actually causing it to tear. In most cases, perforations can be fixed by a physician.
Disorder of the Middle Ear
Otitis Media: This is a very common problem that can affect all age groups, but is very common among children. With otits media, fluid builds up in the space behind the ear drum. This problem can occur when one has a head cold or allergies. This problem can be treated by inserting tubes into the ear drums to relieve the pressure and let the fluid out or with antibiotics.
Negative Middle Ear Pressure: This problem relates to the previous one because colds and allergies sometimes cause the Eustachian tube, which supplies fresh air to the middle ear and allows for pressure to be relieved, to become blocked thus creating a vacuum in the middle ear. Also, if fresh air can not get in, the ear absorbs all the available air and this causes a vacuum.
Otosclerosis: This problem is common in adults and is most often hereditary. It also occurs more in women than in men. It is a progressive disease that involves growths on the bones of the middle ear which result in loss of mobility of the middle ear bones. This problem can be treated surgically.
Disorder of the Inner Ear
Presbycusis: This is the most common type of hearing loss. It is associated with aging. It affects 25% of those in the 65-70 age range and 40% of those over age 75. Presbycusis may result due to wear and tear of the ear over many years and/or because of genetics. The treatment for age related problems are hearing aids that are tailored to suit the person’s specific hearing needs.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss: Exposure to loud noises affects hearing in two ways. First, a temporary noise induced hearing loss can occur. This is a decrease in hearing sensitivity as a result of being exposed to loud noises for short time periods such as during mowing a large yard or being at a concert. Hearing usually returns to normal in approximately 16 hours. The other way hearing can be affected is known as a permanent noise induced hearing loss caused by exposure to loud sounds over long periods of time such as working in a noisy factory for several years without wearing ear protection. This type of loss is permanent. The only way to treat a noise induced hearing loss is with hearing aids.
Meniere’s syndrome: This disease produces a sudden hearing loss and is caused by too much fluid in the inner ear. Symptoms that often accompany this disorder include severe dizziness with attacks of vertigo, aural fullness or pressure and tinnitus.
Drug Induced Hearing Loss: The side affects of some antibiotics can cause hearing loss. These drugs are known as ototoxic drugs.
Disease Induced Hearing Loss: Diseases such as Meningitis, Rubella, measles, mumps, chicken pox, influenza and viral pneumonia can cause hearing loss.
Tinnitus: This is a constant ringing, buzzing, roaring, chirping or whooshing sound in the ears. Tinnitus can be caused by several factors such as hearing loss, genetics, diet, ear trauma or medicines. Often the cause remains unknown.