How do I know if I am deaf or have a hearing loss?
- Deafness and hearing loss
- What are the causes of deafness?
- 10 signs of hearing loss
- Prevention and Detection
- Hearing loss vs. deafness
- Hearing impairment in infants
- Hearing aids
- Bone anchored hearing aids
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Deafness and hearing loss
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 trouble understanding speech, especially if there is a lot of noise, while those with moderate deafness may need a hearing aid.
Some people are severely deaf and depend on lip reading to communicate with others. People who are deaf cannot hear anything and may rely entirely on lip-reading or sign language.
What are the causes of deafness?
The most common cause of deafness in children is an ear infection called otitis media.
Deafness is often caused by
- Exposure to loud noise.
- Some medications and medical conditions.
- Abnormal growth of the small bones in the middle ear
- Damage or malfunction of the cochlea in the inner ear
- Problems with the nerve between the cochlea and the brain
Some people are born deaf. Others become deaf over time; this is more common in people who work in noisy environments, or with noisy machinery and tools, or who have been in war zones. It is also more common with age.
How do I know if I have a hearing loss caused by loud noise?
Prevention and early detection of hearing loss are important. If you have signs of hearing loss or if you are at risk of hearing loss, get a hearing test.
10 signs of hearing loss
If you have any of these signs or symptoms, you may have hearing loss caused by noise:
- Speech and other sounds seem muffled.
- Difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds (e.g., birds, doorbell, phone, alarm clock).
- Difficulty understanding conversations when you are in a noisy place, such as a restaurant
- Difficulty understanding speech on the phone
- Problems distinguishing consonants in speech (e.g., difficulty distinguishing the difference between s and f, p and t, or sh and th in speech)
- Ask others to speak more slowly and clearly.
- Ask someone to speak up or repeat what they said.
- Turn up the volume on the television or radio.
- Ringing in the ears
- Hypersensitivity to certain sounds (certain sounds are very annoying or create pain)
If you have signs of hearing loss, get tested by a qualified health care provider.
The main types of deafness.
Sensorineural deafness, or nerve deafness as it is sometimes called, is a hearing loss in the inner ear. This usually means that the cochlea does not function effectively. Sensorineural deafness is permanent.
Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder (ANSD) , which occurs when sounds are normally received by the cochlea, but are disrupted as they travel to the brain
Conductive deafness means that sound cannot pass efficiently through the outer and middle ear to the inner ear.
This is often caused by blockages such as wax in the outer ear or fluid in the middle ear (glue ear).
Sticky ear is a very common condition, especially in preschool children. Conductive deafness is usually temporary, but can be permanent in some cases.
Children may have a combination of sensorineural and conductive deafness. This is known as mixed deafness. An example of mixed deafness is when someone has both glue ear and sensorineural deafness.
Deafness in one ear is known as unilateral deafness, which can also be called unilateral hearing loss or unilateral deafness (SSD).
Very few deaf children do not have useful hearing. Most deaf children can hear some sounds at certain frequencies and volumes, and with the use of hearing aids or implants they can often hear more sounds.
Prevention and Detection
Prevention and early detection of hearing loss are important
Do not wait until you show signs of hearing loss.
Have your doctor examine your hearing during your regular checkup. A basic hearing evaluation usually includes a quick look in the ear with a special light to look inside the ear canal (otoscope) and other checks to evaluate the sounds you can hear.
Your doctor may refer you to a hearing specialist (audiologist) or other health care provider who is qualified to evaluate hearing if you
- Have a history of exposure to loud noise,
- You feel that your hearing has changed, or You have family or friends who say that you have difficulty hearing and communicating with them (those around us may be the first to notice our hearing problems).
The audiologist may have you listen to different sounds through the headphones to determine the softest sounds you can hear, or repeat word lists or complete other special tests.
Some diseases or circumstances that can cause deafness include
- Sickle cell disease
- Lyme disease
- Diabetes, since studies have shown that people with diabetes are more likely to have some type of hearing loss.
Hearing loss vs. deafness
It is important to distinguish between 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 the sound is amplified.
Profound deafness: refers to a total lack of hearing. An individual with profound deafness cannot detect sound at all.
The severity of hearing impairment is rated by the amount of volume that must be set higher before they can detect a sound.
Some people define profoundly deaf and totally deaf in the same way, while others say a diagnosis of profound deafness is the end of the hearing spectrum.
Hearing impairment in infants
The following signs may indicate a hearing problem:
Before 4 months of age, the baby does not turn his or her head toward a noise.
At the age of 12 months, the baby has not yet uttered a single word.
The baby does not seem to be startled by a loud noise.
Your baby responds to you when he or she can see you, but responds much less or doesn't respond when you're out of sight and calling his or her name.
The baby only seems to be attentive to certain sounds.
Hearing Impairment in Toddlers and Children
These signs may become more evident in slightly older children:
The child is behind others of the same age in oral communication.
The child keeps saying "What?" or "Sorry?
The child talks too loudly and tends to make louder than normal noises.
When the child speaks, his/her expressions are not clear.
Treatments for childhood hearing loss
Depending on the severity and cause of your child's hearing loss, hearing aids, cochlear implants and a combination of speech therapy or assistive listening devices may be recommended forms of treatment.
If you notice that your baby or child shows any of the above signs, take him or her to your family doctor, who can refer you to a pediatric audiologist for a hearing test for your child.
If a child has wax buildup, an ear infection or other problem that causes temporary hearing loss, the audiologist will either address the problem or refer the child to an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor) to have the temporary hearing blockage treated.
Hearing aids are just one type of device that can help children with hearing loss hear clearly again.
There are many pediatric hearing aids, including high-powered hearing aids for children with profound hearing loss that offer high-quality hearing assistance.
Many solutions for children include special coatings and other accessories to ensure that young children do not remove or misplace their hearing systems.
There are several models of devices to choose from, including behind-the-ear hearing systems or those that are almost completely in the ear canal and are very discreet.
Bone anchored hearing aids
In some cases, a child may be a better candidate for a bone-anchored hearing system.
People who generally get the most benefit from bone-anchored hearing systems include those who have severe malformations of the outer or middle ear, such as microtia and atresia, and those with unilateral deafness.
For children who have had a hearing loss that has affected their speech, he or she may need speech and language therapy after receiving hearing aids or a cochlear implant to help him or her catch up on speech delays.
Assistive listening devices
Many hearing aid manufacturing companies offer assistive listening devices, such as FM systems that are discreet and work well in a classroom situation along with the child's hearing aid or cochlear implant.
FM technology helps overcome the poor acoustics of classroom settings or other places with lots of background noise.
Essentially, the teacher wears or has a discreet microphone in front of him or her that transmits his or her voice directly to the child's hearing aids or cochlear implant.