By Dr. Sarika Verma, Ear-Nose-Throat (ENT)
Hearing loss can be caused by a number of factors and can develop at any age. It can be temporary or permanent.
Categories of Hearing Loss:
It can be categorized into three types based on the affected part of the ear:
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss: It occurs when the inner nerves of the ear are damaged and unable to properly transmit the auditory signals to the brain.
- Conductive Hearing Loss: It occurs due to obstructions in the middle or outer ear, or when the sound is not conducted through the outer ear to the middle ear. This results in reduced hearing sound levels and an inability to hear faint sounds.
- Mixed Hearing Loss: It is a combination of Conductive Hearing Loss and Sensorineural Hearing Loss.
Some of the common hearing loss causes are:
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss can be caused by ototoxic drugs, illness, head trauma, aging, genetic or hereditary hearing loss, abrupt changes in air pressure, exposure to very loud noise, or malformation of the inner ear.
- Conductive Hearing Loss can be caused by many reasons such as fluid in middle ear, ear infection, perforated eardrum, allergies, benign tumors, poor eustachian tube function, impacted earwax, presence of a foreign object and infection in the ear canal, malformation of outer ear, middle ear, or inner ear, etc.
It is not easy to realize that a person is losing hearing ability gradually. However, there are a few symptoms which give signs for the hearing loss.
- Asking people to repeat themselves.
- Difficulty in hearing people and misunderstanding them due to faulty hearing.
- Concentrating hard to hear people, leading to stress.
- Listening to music and television at a high volume.
Treatment depends on the cause of hearing loss. Some of them are:
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss is an otologic emergency which is treated with corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are also used to reduce swelling of cochlea hair cells and inflammation after being exposed to loud noise. Bilateral progressive hearing loss occurs when the body’s immune system misdirects its defenses against the inner ear structures resulting in its damage and is managed medically with drug therapy and long-term corticosteroids.
- Fluctuating Sensorineural Hearing Loss may be associated with Meniere’s disease and can be treated with a low-sodium diet, diuretics, and corticosteroids. Various surgical procedures might also be performed.
- Irreversible Sensorineural Hearing Loss is the most common type which can be managed with hearing aids. But, when hearing aids do not work, cochlear implants might have to be done surgically to treat them. A cochlear implant is a very small electronic device which delivers acoustic signal as an electric impulse. Auditory brain cell implants are used when hearing loss is hereditary, as in Neurofibromatosis Type II. Stimulator is placed directly on the brain rather than placing it on a cochlea.
- Conductive Hearing Loss can be treated by corrective surgery for a malformed ear structure. Amplification of sound can also be adopted by using hearing aids or by using a surgically implanted osseointegrated device depending on the condition of hearing nerve. Hearing aids do not correct the condition but help in a more effective communication by amplifying the sound. Antibiotics are used to treat chronic ear infections or middle ear fluid. Tumors require surgery.
- Mixed Hearing Loss can be corrected with a combination of the above-mentioned methods. However, experts recommend taking care of the Conductive Hearing Loss first because most of the time, it helps to improve hearing.
- Assistive Listening Devices are used not to correct but manage hearing loss. They customize the appliances in the day to day life to suit the individual.
There are many treatments available for hearing loss. It is best to consult an ENT specialist before opting for any treatment methods.