Causes of hearing loss
Hearing loss, is the loss of sound sensation and discrimination ability. It can be sudden or gradual. This loss can also be divided into two categories as either congenital (inborn from birth) or acquired hearing loss.
Congenital hearing loss is an hearing deficit since birth.
Acquired hearing loss happens later after birth. Some of the commoner causes are aging, trauma, long term exposure to loud noise, surgery of the ear/brain, infections in the middle or inner ear, and ototoxic drugs.
Hearing loss in children
Hearing loss in children is more commonly seen than in adults. This is because acute suppurative otitis media, which is an infection of the middle ear cavity, is the commonest infection of childhood. It occurs after an upper respiratory infection. The majority of these infections subside completely but it is not uncommon that some persists as a collection of a straw-colored fluid in the middle ear. This fluid has the consistency of “glue”, and when present, prevents the eardrum from moving normally. Hence children with acquired “glue-ear” will have a reduction in their hearing similar to water getting into their ear/s after a shower. This condition can exist in one or both ears.
In children, hearing losses should be investigated and treated as early as possible. This is especially true for children aged up to 7 years old as our speech and language development occurs in the first seven years of life. It is accepted that speech and language rehabilitation becomes more difficult and less successful, the later the hearing loss is diagnosed, and after optimal treatment.
Hearing loss in adults
Hearing loss may be acquired later in life. Causes include the long term sequelae of childhood ear infections like a perforated eardrum or cholesteatoma and hearing loss secondary to aging, ototoxic drugs application, noise-induced loss, barotrauma, occupation related noise exposure, ear surgery or intracranial brain surgery, intracranial tumours, unexplained sudden hearing loss, etc.
Hearing loss in one or both ears
Hearing loss can happen in either one (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral). Different hearing problems may co-exist in the same ear or in both ears. The severity of the hearing loss for each ear may vary from a mild loss (cannot hear someone whispering into your ear) to a profound hearing loss (cannot hear someone shouting into your ear) and anything in between.
Patients with a unilateral hearing loss, normal hearing ability may exist on the other side. These sufferers tend to hear only in one ear, and therefore fail to be able to stereo-localise sounds as other normal individuals i.e. they cannot tell the direction of sounds. They also particularly have problems in any noisy environment, such as in a meeting, restaurant, bar, etc. Here the voice of the speaker they are trying to listen to, competes with the noise of the background, which drowns it out. Hence it is hard for them to concentrate on one sound source and listen clearly. Certain adaptations in lifestyles are essential like cocking their heads to one side so the better hearing ear hears what is being said, walking always with friends / family standing on the side of their good ear, attending meeting early to sit in a position that would be advantageous to hearing better in the meeting, etc.
For patients with bilateral hearing loss, usually caused by noisy working environment over time and aging, they require a louder volume of sound stimulus in order to hear better. Turning the television, hifi, or radio up louder appears to do the trick but their family, friends and neighbours may, and do, find it disturbing.
The information on this website is for general educational purpose only.
Readers should consult their physician before considering treatment, and should not interpret their condition solely based on the information above.