Hearing Loss: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment
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Hearing Loss: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

Everybody knows what intakes are, foods (solid and liquid), air we breathe and sound waves we hear. You know hearing well but what about hearing loss? Hearing loss or impairment happens when there is a problem with one or more parts of the ear or ears. Anyone who has hearing loss or impairment may be able to hear low sounds, hard of hearing or nothing at all.

HEARING LOSS: CAUSES, SYMPTOMS, PREVENTION AND TREATMENT

Everybody knows what intakes are, foods (solid and liquid), air we breathe and sound waves we hear. You know hearing well but what about hearing loss? Hearing loss or impairment happens when there is a problem with one or more parts of the ear or ears. Anyone who has hearing loss or impairment may be able to hear low sounds, hard of hearing or nothing at all.

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Studies say that about 3 in 1,000 babies are born with hearing impairment, making it the most common birth defect. Hearing problems also develop later in life. Gradual hearing loss that occurs as you age (presbycusis) is common. According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 1/3 of Americans between the ages of 65 and 75 have some degree of hearing loss and ½ of those above 75 years.

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Doctors believe that heredity and chronic exposure to loud noises are the main factors that contribute to hearing loss over time. Other physical factors, such as earwax blockage, can prevent your ears from conducting sounds as well as they should.

How Hearing Works

To understand how and why hearing loss happens, it helps to know how the ear works. There are two different pathways by which sound waves or vibrations produce the sensation of hearing: air conduction and bone conduction.

By Air Conduction

• By air conduction, sound waves move through the air in the external auditory canal (the "ear canal" between the outside air and your eardrum). The sound waves hit the tympanic membrane (eardrum) and cause the tympanic membrane to move.

• The bones in the middle ear are connected to the tympanic membrane. When the tympanic membrane moves, the movement is transmitted to the bones. These bones are called the malleus, the incus, and the stapes. Movement of the stapes causes vibrations (pressure waves) in the fluid-filled inner ear.

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• The cochlea is an inner ear structure surrounded by fluid that contains multiple small hairs. Pressure waves in the fluid cause the hairs to move. This movement stimulates the auditory nerve. Different frequencies of noises stimulate different hairs on the cochlea, which translate to the sensation of sounds of different pitch.

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By Bone Conduction

• Hearing by bone conduction occurs when a sound wave or vibration causes the bones of the skull to quiver. These vibrations are transmitted to the fluid surrounding the cochlea and hearing results.

Causes of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can happen when a person was born with parts of the ear that naturally defective or don't work well. Other problems can happen because of an injury or illness. There are two basic types of hearing loss, which are called conductive and sensorineural.

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Conductive causes: hearing losses result from physical problems with the movement of the sound wave through the ear. A simple example is blockage of the ear canal.

* Obstructed external ear canal – wax build-up, hematoma (blood collection), or foreign body in the ear canal - the most common causes of hearing loss.

* Perforated tympanic membrane - Caused by direct trauma such as a finger or cotton swab, middle-ear infections (otitis media), or explosions (blast injury)

* Dislocated ossicle (malleus, incus, or stapes) - Usually from trauma to the ear

* Otitis media - Middle ear infection

* Otitis externa - Infection of the ear canal that causes it to swell

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SOURCE: American Tinnitus Association

Sensorineural causes: hearing result from damage to the hair cells or nerves that sense sound waves.

Acoustic trauma – Constant exposure to loud noises causes the hair cells on the cochlea to become less sensitive.

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* Barotrauma (pressure trauma) or ear squeeze – Most common on divers

* Head injury - A fracture of the temporal bone can disrupt the nerves of the auditory system

* Ototoxic drugs - Certain drugs can affect hearing by damaging the nerves involved in hearing.

* Vascular diseases (problems with blood vessels) include sickle cell disease, diabetes, leukemia, polycythemia, and diseases in which excessive blood clotting occurs.

* Children and adults with kidney problems are more susceptible to sensorineural hearing loss.

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* Meniere's disease - Ménière’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear that causes severe dizziness (vertigo), ringing in the ears (tinnitus), hearing loss, and a feeling of fullness or congestion in the ear. Ménière’s disease usually affects only one ear. A disease that affects hearing and balance. It is usually associated with tinnitus (ringing in the ears). The cause is unknown.

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Acoustic neuroma - A tumor in the auditory nerve usually associated with ringing in the ears.

* Infection:

Mumps

Measles

Meningitis

Influenza

Mononucleosis

Herpes (simple) and Herpes (zoster)

Syphilis

* Aging (presbycusis)

You can't reverse hearing loss but you don't have to live in a world of silence, less distinct sounds. You and your doctor or hearing specialist can take steps to improve what you hear.

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SOURCE: League for Hard of Hearing

Prevention and Treatment of Hearing Loss

Noise-induced hearing loss is usually permanent and progresses with each exposure. Use proper ear protection when working around ear polluting noises.

• If you know that earwax has built up in the ear, over-the-counter preparations can be used to soften the wax so that it can come out of the ear on its own.

• Never put foreign objects in the ear.

Do not use cotton swabs to probe or clean the ear canals.

Do not put cotton balls or liquids into the ear unless prescribed by a doctor.

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• Hearing loss may be prevented by prompt treatment. Most doctors believe that fluid in the middle ear (called an effusion) lasting longer than 6 weeks should be drained and tympanostomy tubes (ear tubes) placed in the middle ear.

• Use acetaminophen (Tylenol) to lower fever or pain until you can see a doctor.

• If you are taking medications that can cause hearing loss, your doctor should carefully monitor their levels with blood tests.

• If you have hearing loss that cannot be cured, hearing aids can be of great benefit.

When the cause of the hearing loss is unknown, it is best to seek medical attention.

Reference:

Ronthoughts Journal – Senses and Sense of Spirituality

http://www.emedicinehealth.com/hearing_loss/article_em.htm

http://kidshealth.org/kid/health_problems/sight/hearing_impairment.html

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hearing-loss/DS00172

http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/balance/meniere.html

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Comments (6)

A very helpful article! It reminds us how important hearing is. Thanks,

Good tips on hearing concerns, good for people to know regardless of age.

Exceptional article Ron especially in these noise-filled times. Bravo!

Ranked #3 in Ear Infections

Thanks everyone for valued comments, views and votes.

These are good info, thanks Ron.

Ranked #3 in Ear Infections

Thanks Phoenix.

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