Losing the sense of hearing is a horrific experience anyone should never experience. Unfortunately, a study conducted in 2014 showed that 1 out of 6 people in Singapore suffer from hearing loss, while a total of 5% of the world’s population are affected according to the World Health Organization.
If diagnosed and addressed early, hearing loss can benefit from the use of hearing aids and implants, but information about this condition is often ignored by most people.
Causes of Hearing Loss
Loss of hearing has different causes and it can affect different parts of the ear.
• Presbycusis or the deterioration due to aging
• Injuries to the ear
• Earwax impaction
• Fluid in the middle ear or otitis media
• Protrusions in the ear canal called exostoses
• Swimmer’s ear or otitis externa
• Presence of a foreign object in the ears
• Exposure to loud noises for an extended period
• Cancerous growths within the ear or acoustic neuroma
• Abnormal growths such as glomus tumors or cholesteatoma
• Side effects of medication
• Infections such as mumps, measles, and meningitis
• Diseases such as blood vessel and autoimmune diseases
• Break in the bones of the middle ear called ossicular chain discontinuity
• Narrowing of the ear canal or stenosis
• Blocking of the Eustachian tube
• Freezing up of middle ear bones called otosclerosis
• Injuries in the tympanic membrane; or its thickening called tympanosclerosis
Common Types of Hearing Defects
These are four types of hearing loss that you should be aware of.
Conductive Hearing Loss affects the outer and/or middle ear and results in the decrease of sound, but with the inner ear still functioning normally. The condition can be treated and may be caused by earwax, existence of fluid in the middle ear, bone abnormality or eardrum perforation. This is a common condition among children who suffer from infections or insertion of foreign objects in their ears.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss is characterized by problems either in the nerve pathway connecting the inner ear to the brain or within the inner ear itself. Unfortunately, this permanent and untreatable type of hearing loss is caused by infection or disease, genetic predisposition, exposure to noise or aging. As a result, the hair or the nerve cells present in the cochlea are damaged. It is the most common type of hearing loss, but some patients can benefit from using hearing aids even if surgery and medical intervention cannot help.
Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss is a type of sensorineural hearing loss that occurs suddenly for no discernible reason. The symptoms can be felt in a few days, and it’s important to get the ears checked as soon as possible so that medical intervention can still be effective. Doctors recommend setting an appointment with an otologist within two weeks of the appearance of the symptoms.
Mixed Hearing Loss is a combination of both types of hearing loss that affects the outer, middle, and inner ear. Conductive hearing loss can be treated, but the symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss can be permanent.