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Deafness

As per WHO, ‘A person who is not able to hear as well as someone with normal hearing – hearing thresholds of 25 decibel(a unit to measure intensity of sound) or better in both ears – is said to have hearing loss’.   Hearing impaired people can be hard of hearing (HOH) or deaf. ‘Hard of hearing’ refers to people with hearing loss ranging from mild to severe. They usually communicate through spoken language. If a person cannot hear at all, then they have deafness. They are unable to hear and understand even a shouted voice.    

Hearing impairment may be inherited, or caused by diseases like maternal rubella or complications at birth, certain infectious diseases such as  meningitis, use of ototoxic drugs(drugs toxic to ears), exposure to excessive noise and ageing.
 
Impact of hearing loss
Functional impact

One of the main impact    of hearing loss is on an individual’s inability to converse with others. Children with hearing loss often suffer in spoken language development .

Hearing loss and ear diseases such as  otitis media can have a significant  adverse effect on the educational   of children. However, If people suffering from hearing loss are provided a chance to communicate they can participate on an equal footing with others.

The communication can be through spoken/ written language or through sign language.

Restricted access to communicate can have a significant impact on everyday life, causing feelings of solitude, seclusion and dissatisfaction, particularly among older people with hearing loss.

Economic impact

In developing countries, children with impaired hearing or deafness rarely receive any schooling.  Adults with hearing loss are also subjected to higher unemployment rate. Among those who are employed, a higher percentage of people with hearing loss are in the lower grades of employment compared with the general workforce. 

National Programme for Prevention and Control of Deafness

 

References: www.who.int

 

Early signs and symptoms of hearing loss may include:
In Adults
  • Trouble in hearing other people clearly 
  • Requesting  people to say again 
  • Listening to music or watching television with the high volume 
  • Not being able to hear telephone or door bell
In Children
  • Child is slow in learning, how to talk, or is not clear while speaking
  • Child asks you to repeat again 
  • Child talks very loudly
  • Child  watches TV at high volume
All these signs may point towards hearing impairment and should be discussed with a physician without delay.
 
Reference: www.nhs.uk

The causes of hearing loss and deafness can be either  congenital or  acquired 
Congenital causes
Congenital causes leading to hearing loss include:
  • Infections like maternal rubella, syphilis or certain other infections during pregnancy;
  • Low birth weight
  • Birth asphyxia (lack of oxygen at the time of birth);
  • Inappropriate use of ototoxic drugs (such as aminoglycosides, cytotoxic drugs, antimalarial drugs and diuretics) during pregnancy
  • Severe jaundice in the neonatal period, can damage nerve for hearing in a newborn infant, leading to defness.
Acquired causes
Acquired causes lead to hearing loss at any age.
  • Infectious diseases such as meningitis, measles and mumps can lead to loss of hearing especially in childhood but can also occur in later life.
  • Chronic ear infection, which commonly presents as discharging ears, can lead to hearing loss. In certain cases this condition can also lead to serious, life-threatening complications, such as brain abscess or meningitis.
  • Collection of fluid in the ear (otitis media with effusion) can cause hearing loss.
  • Use of ototoxic drugs at any age, such as antibiotic like Gentamicin or antimalarial medicines, can damage inner ear.
  • Head injury or injury to the ear can cause hearing loss.
  • Working in excessive noise or loud music or other loud noises, such as gunfire or explosions, can affect hearing.
  • Age-related hearing loss (presbyacusis) is caused by degeneration of sensory cells.
  • Wax or foreign bodies blocking the ear canal can cause hearing loss at any age

Reference: www.who.int

One should visit doctor as soon as they have hearing problem. The doctor may examine your ear with an instrument called auriscope  to look for anything abnormal.

*NHP provides indicative information for better understanding of health. As the disease progress may vary from person to person so  consult your physician for actual diagnosis & treatment.

Reference: www.nhs.uk
 

Treatment  depends upon the cause of the condition like:
  • Hearing impairment due to  blockage of ear can be treated by drops or suction.
  • Bacterial infection can be treated by antibiotics
  • However, hearing loss cause by damage to inner ear or to the nerves is permanent.

Hearing aids doesn't treat the disease but helps in hearing. 
It is not suitable for everyone and should be used with the advice of your physician.

*NHP provides indicative information for better understanding of health. As the disease progress may vary from person to person so  consult your physician for actual diagnosis & treatment.

Reference: www.nhs.uk

It is not possible to prevent deafness. However, risks factor can be avoided like
  • One should not listen to the TV too loud
  • Use of ear plugs or muffs if you are working in noisy environment
  • Don't insert objects in your ear

Reference: www.nhs.uk
 

  • CREATED / VALIDATED BY : NHP CC DC
  • LAST UPDATED ON : Jan 20, 2016

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The content on this page has been supervised by the Nodal Officer, Project Director and Assistant Director (Medical) of Centre for Health Informatics. Relevant references are cited on each page.