Updated: Aug 1
By now, it has already been apprehended that hearing loss is a prevalent sensory impairment that has affected countless individuals across the globe. This has a substantial impact on one’s quality of life, social and communication skills, and also daily interactions. People with difficulty in mainly hearing lack self-confidence, and it becomes an ordeal to work or study comfortably compared to ordinary people. But that is no more the case after the advent of cochlear implants. This medical device has taken the sphere of medicine by surprise with its progressive features and ability to improve a hearing-impaired person’s speech and language capacities. But there are people who are still oblivious to the topic - the type of hearing loss and what actually causes this loss?
Exploring Each Type of Hearing Loss
Before delving into the types and causes of hearing loss, it is crucial to understand that hearing loss hits slowly over the course of time. There are four significant types of hearing loss:
1. Sensorineural Hearing Loss: This falls under the most common type of hearing loss, where the impairment occurs in the inner ear or the auditory nerve pathways heading towards the brain. This can either be congenital or acquired and is mostly irreversible. This type of hearing loss generally occurs pretty suddenly or over just a couple of days. If you are undergoing sensorineural hearing loss, it is imperative that you get diagnosed by an otologist or an ear specialist. Ensure that you don’t delay your doctor's visit, as just two or more weeks will lessen the probability of medications to work.
2. Conductive Hearing Loss: This is the type of hearing loss that occurs either in the outer or middle ear, where sound waves fail to carry all the way through to the inner ear. There is a probability that the sound might be blocked by earwax or a foreign object located in the ear canal. It might also happen that the middle ear space might be affected by fluid, bone abnormality, infection, or an eardrum injury. Unlike sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss is generally treatable by taking help from medical intervention or surgical procedures. This type of hearing loss is majorly encountered by children who often encounter ear infections or insert foreign objects into the ear canal.
3. Mixed Hearing Loss: This sort of hearing loss can be defined as a blend of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss where both the inner or middle ear and the auditory nerve are impacted. This sort of hearing loss puts forward a more complex challenge for treatment as both the structural issue and nerve damage need to be managed.
4. Central Hearing Loss: Central hearing loss is mostly occasional and occurs when there is an injury in the brain's auditory processing centres. This affects the brain’s approach to examining sound signals received from the ears. The reasons for central hearing loss can involve brain injuries, strokes, tumours, and specific neurological disorders.
What are the Different Grounds for a Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss occurs as a result of different reasons. From ageing to noise exposure, genetics to disease, hearing loss can be directed by any.
1. Impairment to the Inner Ear: Ageing and loud noise can lead to wear and tear on the hairs or nerve cells in the cochlea that delivers sound signals to the brain. Impaired or missing hairs or nerve cells don’t deliver electrical signals properly. This often leads to hearing loss.
2. Noise Exposure: When you are exposed to loud noise, either through a single severe event or prolonged exposure to loud ambience, the continual noise-induced environment might lead to hearing loss. It is; therefore, people working jobs in industries like construction, railway engines, manufacturing, music, and so on tend to be at higher risk for hearing loss. This is not the end; when engaged in recreational activities like listening to music or attending concerts, one should use appropriate hearing protection that might prevent hearing loss.
3. Genetics: A common reason for hearing loss is genetics. It might happen that your hearing loss is a result of your genetics, or it has been passed down through generations. Several genetic factors play a crucial role in congenital hearing loss, where babies are born with damaged hearing due to inherited gene mutations.
4. Infections and Diseases: Infections and diseases like mumps, meningitis, cytomegalovirus (CMV), and other viral or bacterial infections might lead to hearing loss.
5. Trauma and Injury: Head injuries and trauma to the ears are common concerns, and these instances might lead to hearing loss. The inner ear and auditory nerve are mild systems exposed to damage from sudden impacts or accidents.
6. Tumours: Non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant) tumours that appear in the ear or along the auditory pathway can lead to hearing loss by exerting force on the delicate structures concerned with hearing.
Understanding each type of hearing loss and its causes is essential for early intervention, prevention, and appropriate intervention, allowing individuals with hearing loss to lead fulfilling lives with improved communication and overall well-being. If you suspect hearing loss in yourself or others, seeking evaluation and treatment from a qualified audiologist is crucial for managing this condition effectively. A cochlear implant is a noted approach to handling severe cases of hearing loss by improving one’s speech and hearing development.