Hearing loss may occur as a natural part of aging or as a side effect of a disease, but no matter the cause, it can have an adverse affect quality of life. Hearing loss not only makes it hard to hear but also hard to communicate with others on a daily basis.
Causes and Types
Hearing can be damaged in a number of ways. Some people are born with deafness or diminished hearing because of a congenital defect or disease. Others lose their hearing later in life after developing a condition that impacts hearing. Loud noises and other head injuries also can damage the ear and affect hearing, as can ear infections.
In general, people experience one of two types of hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss refers to loss caused by damage to the inner ear. It's usually permanent. Conductive hearing loss, on the other hand, can usually be corrected. It occurs when sound waves are not reaching the inner ear for a variety of reasons, such as the buildup of fluid or ear wax or a punctured eardrum. Other common types of hearing loss include presbycusis, which refers to the gradual changes to the ear that lead to hearing loss as a person ages; and tinnitus, which is a ringing or buzzing sensation in the ears that can affect almost anyone.
Treatment of Hearing Loss
Treatment depends on the nature and extent of the problem. In some cases, treatments or surgery to repair the ear may help. Treating more permanent types of hearing loss may involve hearing aids, cochlear implants or hearing assistive technology. People who are hearing impaired also can have various types of therapy to assist with improving both hearing and speaking.
SOURCES: U.S. National Institute on Aging; American Speech-Language-Hearing Association