ENT specialists lay down the options for Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is the most common sensory deficit in human beings today. WHO predicts that in India, more than 70 million individuals will be suffering from significant auditory impairment by the end of 2020. These astounding numbers amount to severe loss in productivity, both physical and economical. Sadly, even larger numbers are linked to milder degrees and unilateral (one sided) hearing loss.  

Different kinds of hearing loss

  1. CONDUCTIVE HEARING LOSS occurs because of difficulty in the middle ear. In a normal ear, the sound hits on an integral eardrum. The increase in movement is backed up by three small bones, working simultaneously in which the third bone works as a piston to deliver the increased vibrations to the fluid system of the inner ear. Fluid in the ear, eardrum tear, and damage to the working of the three bones may cause hearing loss. If the inner ear is enthused directly by the nerves, hearing organ and hearing is normal. This is known as conductive hearing loss.
  2. SENSORY-NEURAL HEARING LOSS refers to damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve which is the signal bearer to the brain. This type of condition occurs when there is physical harm to the end organ or the nerve. In most cases, sensory-neural hearing loss is irreversible. Using a hearing aid is only the solution as surgery itself is baseless in this case. Sensory-neural hearing loss is linked to blockage of blood supply or the sudden arrival of viral infection.

Safeguarding newborns from hearing loss is now recommended. In young ones, hearing impairment can lead to further problems such as slow growth, slow learning capabilities etc. By detecting problem in the initial stages, suitable measures can be taken to avert any of the aforementioned types of hearing loss.

How is it diagnosed?

The best available examination to determine an individual’s hearing abilities is an audiometry test. Before commencing the test, the ENT specialist may conduct a general screening test to know the extent of the condition. He/she may ask patient to cover up one ear at a time to see how well his/her ear responds when exposed to different sets of volume.

During a thorough test called audiometry, the patients are asked to wear headphones and hear sounds directed to one ear at a time. The ENT specialist presents an array of sounds of various tones and asks him/her to indicate each time. Each tone is repeated different times at different levels.

Special hearing tests including speech tests give a clear idea whether hearing loss is conductive or sensory-neural.

What current medical technology does to eradicate the problem?

The treatment for hearing loss varies according to the condition. Hearing aid is the only possibility if the damage is to the inner ear.

HEARING AIDS: The ENT doctor can discuss the probable advantages of using a hearing aid. Hearing aids cannot help every patient with hearing impairment, but they can enhance hearing for many people. However, getting adapted to it can take some time. Since, the sound coming through the hearing aid is amplified, it will take some adjustments before a patient gets used to it. Hearing aids should always be purchased after doing extensive research.

COCHLEAR IMPLANTS: Cochlear Implants are considered when hearing aids fail to deliver. These implants are inserted into the inner ear but can cost you a fortune. They have their own set of complications. It is advisable to have healthy discussion with an EYE specialist before going for such implants.

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