Hearing Impairments Explained

The decreased ability to hear is a serious condition that many people have to endure during their life and look for ways to overcome the difficulties that accompany it.

It is possible to distinguish between two main types of hearing loss – conductive and sensorineural. The difference between them is determined by the reasons standing behind the condition, its severity and the possible courses of action that can be undertaken to improve it.

Conductive hearing loss

In order to hear properly, sounds should be effortlessly transmitted between the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. If there is a problem in the first two, this might result in conductive hearing loss or inability to hear low frequency sounds. It is very important to determine the exact causes, in order to choose the right treatment. Severe colds can lead to the accumulation of fluid in the middle ear and are one of the most common reasons for conductive hearing loss. Different allergies, ear infections or impaction of earwax could be other generators of the condition.

Furthermore, infections often cause a constant build-up of pressure behind the eardrum, which could at some point lead to its perforation. People exposed to loud noises, for example during concerts, or going through rapid altitude changes (scuba diving, flying) could also experience problems with their hearing. In addition, the list of possible causes for conductive hearing loss includes malformations of the ear, tumours, swimmer’s ear, head traumas or the presence of a foreign body in the ear.

If the condition occurs suddenly, it is harder to neglect it because the sufferer experiences discomfort and sometimes pain, which urges them to seek help immediately. However, conductive hearing loss could progress slowly with time, which makes it less noticeable and hides risks for permanent complications. Therefore, it is very important to visit a specialist to perform regular ear checks. Conductive hearing loss can be treatable if measures are taken on time, usually with proper medications or in severe cases, surgery.

Sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss is a more severe condition, which affects a very large percentage of the people suffering from hearing impairment. Unfortunately it cannot be treated medically or averted, because it results from damage inflicted on the inner ear or the delicate hair cells of the cochlea. They cannot be restored or reproduced and this causes problems with the proper signal transfer between the inner ear and the brain.

The most common cause of sensorineural hearing loss is aging, followed by continuous exposure to a loud environment. There could be a variety of other causes preceding the condition – a head trauma, intake of ototoxic drugs, an inherited genetic condition or malformations. Some illnesses, such as mumps, meningitis, brain tumour or multiple sclerosis could also lead to permanent changes in hearing ability.

As sensorineural hearing loss cannot be cured, it is important that people, especially those with a family history of hearing impairment, consider multiple possible ways of prevention. These include regular visits to a hearing specialist as age progresses and wearing a suitable hearing protection in case of constant exposure to high decibel levels. The most common way to handle sensorineural hearing loss is by using hearing aids, whose function is to amplify sounds and help the hard of hearing in remaining independent in daily activities and leading a fulfilling social life.

Information written by Hearing Direct a Hampshire based online hearing superstore offering hearing aids, phones for the deaf, tinnitus relief and other hard of hearing products.

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Mother of three grown-up daughters I am the ultimate multi-tasker and am passionate about my role as Silversurfers Website Editor and Social Media Manager. Always on the lookout for all things that will interest and entertain our community. Fuelling fun for the young at heart!

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