Hearing Impairment Introduction - Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

By Barb Hicks

The sense of hearing is an important part of life. If nothing else, it serves as a safety valve against danger. If you hear car tires screeching, your hearing will tell you from what direction it is coming from. You suddenly look in the direction of the sound and see the car careening towards you, enabling you to get out of the way quickly. If you suffer a hearing loss, you may not hear the tires at all, causing you to be injured or worse.

An extensive amount of damage incurred by the auditory system results in hearing loss. Each ear is comprised of external, inner and middle chambers. Each of these chambers contains structures needed in order for us to hear sounds. Damage can be a result of trauma, illness or infection.

In all, there are four types of hearing loss; they include conductive, sensorineural, mixed, and central hearing loss. Unfortunately, hearing loss is often mistaken for other chronic ailments such as depression and dementia. Additionally, hearing loss is quite prominent in the senior population due to the destruction of hair cells in the cochlea due to age. Once these vital hair cells have been destroyed, the body can not replace them. This means hearing loss is permanent.

Signs and Symptoms:

Constantly needing conversation to be repeated Extreme volume on the TV, radio, or other electronic device Depression Withdrawal from social activities Unable to understand speech No response to sound

Unfortunately, hearing loss in adults is not recognized until extensive damage to the auditory system has already been done. Furthermore, hearing loss won't be detected until a visit to the doctor for a completely different ailment brings it to light. Upon discovering the hearing loss, the physician will then need to determine the type, degree and location of the auditory damage. Most often, hearing loss in adults can be attributed to aging (presbycusis), tumors, and viral infections such as the flu or herpes.

Children fall prey to hearing loss for the most part due to bacterial or viral infections such as mumps, rubella, meningitis, and multiple sclerosis.

Diagnosis and treatment:

A thorough physical examination as well as specialized diagnostic testing are used to determine if hearing loss is present as well as rule out other conditions that may be the cause of the loss.

Methods of treatment for hearing loss include surgical intervention, hearing aids and medications. However, prevention is the number one tool that can save your precious gift. If for example you are exposed to excessive noise through a job in a factory, protecting your ears is the best defense against the loss of your hearing. - 30540

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