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What is a Hearing Impairment?

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People use the terms deafness and hearing impairment interchangeably to mean a complete hearing loss. However, what is hearing impairment? It is defined as a partial or total inability to perceive sounds. There are situations when a condition can be reversed through specialized treatment. Given that hearing is one of the essential senses required to communicate, its loss can be devastating to a person.

About Hearing Impaired

The degree of hearing loss is classified either as severe, moderate or mild deafness. Groups of people with benign condition often encounter problems understanding speech. The noise around them complicates this problem. Those whose status is categorized as moderate and severe require hearing aids to be able to perceive speech easily.

Severely deaf people are dependent on lip-reading and sign-language to communicate. Deafness is divided into two types either sensorineural or conductive. Sensorineural affects the inner ear and occurs as a result of damage to the nerves and cells. Conductive impairment occurs linked to the middle and outer year.

Causes of Hearing Impairment

Several factors and medical conditions can cause hearing loss. Among them is genetics, aging, medication, physical trauma or exposure to hazardous chemicals.

1. Genetics

Hearing loss is a condition that can be inherited from the family lineage. Genetically, there are two forms of deafness one is syndromic and non-syndromic impairments. The first is dependent on the availability of other underlying medical conditions while the latter does not involve any other circumstances. Syndromic deafness is associated with disorders like Alport’s syndrome and Stickler syndrome.

2. Age

Loss of hearing associated with aging is known as presbycusis. This condition can start early for men than women. Most of the time, it is associated with exposure to toxins, noise or diseases for an extended duration of time. Seniors also are at an increased risk of conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure which complicates the situation further.

3. Medications

Certain drugs can also lead to hearing impairment. Among them is loop diuretics like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, prescription drugs like diclofenac, macrolide antibiotics, and paracetamol. These ototoxic drugs affect mostly women.

4. Chemical Exposures

Chemicals like lead, asphyxiants, and solvents like toluene can also cause hearing loss. With chemical exposures, the resulting condition is irreversible as severe damages have been done to the cochlea. A majority of these ototoxic chemicals cause much damage than when exposed to noise.

5. Physical trauma

It refers to damage to the middle ear, cochlea or the brain centers. Some of the parts that are prone to physical trauma are responsible for aural information transmission. Physical damage to the inner ear includes temporal bone fracture while that of the middle ear include discontinuity and rupture. Head injuries can also contribute to hearing loss.

Conclusion

What is hearing impairment? In a nutshell, it is the inability to listen to little or no sound. Identification of hearing loss requires a physician to diagnose and prescribe the course of treatment. Some of the causes that result in the loss of hearing can be averted.

For instance, safety measures can be taken to prevent exposure to chemicals that cause these ototoxic effects. In cases of genetic predisposition, a person with a hearing problem requires to learn sign language and to lip-read to communicate.

What conductive hearing loss? What is unilateral hearing loss? Check out some of our other articles – education is key to fully understanding our health.