India has one of the highest incidences of deafness in the world. It is known to be in millions –estimates vary according to how “deafness” is defined.
Ignorance, social stigma, poverty, genetics and more play a large role in increasing this number. The fact remains, an early detection can lead to early treatment.
Kinds of hearing loss:
Hearing loss is the reduced ability to hear sound. Deafness is the complete inability to hear sound. Deafness and hearing loss have many causes and can occur at any age.
People can go deaf suddenly as a complication from a virus, or lose their hearing over time because of disease, nerve damage, or injury caused by noise.
There are two kinds of hearing loss; Conductive and Sensorineural.
Conductive hearing loss occurs when something blocks sound waves from reaching the inner ear.
Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear or to the nerves that send sounds to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss is more likely to be permanent and to cause deafness.
Sometimes a combination of Conductive and Sensorineural Hearing Loss can occur simultaneously.
Causes of Hearing loss and deafness
- Ear Infections, Fluid build-up behind the Eardrum, Holes (perforations) in the Eardrum and problems with the Middle Ear bones can cause Deafness from Conductive Hearing Loss. In rare cases, Tumours can also cause Conductive Hearing Loss.
- Genetics is one cause of Sensorineural Hearing Loss. Half of all cases of Profound Deafness in children have a Genetic Source.
- Presbycusis or age associated Hearing Loss, also has a Genetic Component. Diseases such as Diabetes and long-term exposure to noise can also lead to Deafness.
- Exposure to loud noise in certain occupations from sources such as Construction Machinery, Heavy Equipment, or Amplified Music can cause Sensorineural Hearing Loss in people of all ages and is the most common cause of Hearing Loss. The louder the noise and the longer the exposure to it, the greater is the risk of this type of Hearing Loss.
- Some kinds of Sensorineural Hearing Loss or Deafness are caused by infectious diseases, such as Shingles, Meningitis and Cytomegalovirus. In childhood, the Auditory Nerve can be damaged by Mumps, Meningitis, German Measles (Rubella), or Inner Ear infections.
- Rarely, Deafness or Hearing Loss will occur suddenly. This condition can be Permanent or Temporary, and usually affects only one ear. The cause is unknown but may be due to Viral Infections, or disorders of the Circulatory or Immune System.
- Lack of Oxygen at birth can also badly damage the ears and hearing.
- Other causes of Sensorineural Hearing Loss include various Brain and Nerve disorders (such as a Stroke). Nerve Pathways in the Brain that transmit Sound Impulses can be damaged by Multiple Sclerosis and other Diseases attacking the coverings of Nerves. Violent Injury and Physical Blows To the Ear may cause Permanent Deafness.
In a large number of cases, hearing loss/ deafness can be reversed or treated. Thanks to the great leaps we have made in technology and science, hearing healthcare clinics are equipped to do comprehensive audiological evaluations across all age groups that can help detect signs of hearing loss/ deafness.