Understanding The Preventable Causes Of Hearing Loss
The ear is a complex organ that allows us to hear sounds over a wide frequency range. It also allows us to discriminate between the sounds that vary in pitch and volume. The hearing power in a person gives the feeling of participation in life as it plays a vital role in the development of speech and in monitoring one’s speech.
The ears process sound and enables our brain to interpret what others are speaking. Our ears are divided into three parts, and each part has its own role to play in the process of hearing - the inner ear, middle ear, and outer ear. In simple terms, it can be said that the middle and the outer ear work towards amplifying the sound signals and the inner ear works towards converting these signals into the sound.
According to the World Health Organisation, approximately 466 million people worldwide have a disabling loss of hearing and has estimated that by 2050 over 900 million people will suffer from it.
Hearing loss can be defined as the decrease in the sensitivity of an individual towards the sound. The degree of hearing loss can widely range from person to person depending upon the damage caused to one or both ears and also the location of the damage within the ear. Hearing loss can be categorized into four types - conductive, sensorineural, mixed, and central.
- Conductive hearing loss occurs due to the problems in the middle ear or the outer ear, which prevents the conduction of sound to the inner ear.
- Sensorineural hearing loss occurs due to the problems in the inner ear. It is due to an abnormality in the cochlea or auditory nerve. The cochlea is responsible for converting sound signals into electrical energy, and the auditory nerve is responsible for transmitting electrical energy to the auditory center in the brain.
- Mixed hearing loss occurs due to the involvement of both conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss.
- Central hearing loss occurs due to problems with the auditory nerve or the sound systems. The electrical energy may transfer within the ear, but sound nerves are unable to transmit them to the auditory center in the brain.
According to research, there are many different causes of hearing loss and some of them are preventable. Most often hearing loss occurs due to the development of certain diseases which contain specific preventable causative factors. Some of the factors that can help in preventing hearing disorders include:
Excessive exposure to noise is one of the common causes of hearing loss, especially in children. Both short term (one time exposure to intense sound) and long term (repeated exposure to highly intense sound) can cause hearing disorder as it can cause damage to the auditory system. Most often, this type of hearing loss is known as noise-induced hearing loss.
Exposure to loud noise could lead to a ruptured eardrum. A ruptured eardrum is a condition which is characterized by the hole in the eardrum that separates the ear canal and the middle ear. As a result, it causes a decrease in hearing power. The larger the hole, the greater the hearing loss.
Research showed that people who work in an environment that provides them continuous exposure to noise are more likely to complain about hearing problems such as a musician or a factory worker.
Trapped water in the ear
Evidence suggests that prolonged exposure of water in the ear is one of the causes of ear infection. In medical terms, this type of infection is known as swimmer's ear. It is also known as acute otitis media, and it is defined as an infection of the ear canal, accompanied by symptoms like pain, redness, and swelling of the ear canal. Many patients having swimmer’s ear complaint of temporary hearing loss or the feeling of fullness in the ear.
Although it can happen to anyone, it most commonly occurs in children. It is a serious risk factor for ear problems as the moist environment in the ear allows the growth of bacteria, which causes an infection in the ear. A lack of earwax has been observed in patients having swimmer’s ear due to aggressive cleaning. Earwax is important to limit the growth of bacteria in the ear.
Research showed that people who spend most of their time swimming or are involved in the water sport activities are more likely to have swimmer’s ear.
A buildup of earwax
Blocked ears or the buildup of earwax is another common cause of the hearing problem in people these days. Ear wax is a protective coating that lines the inside of the ears. Ear wax plays various important functions such as preventing a moist environment in the ear and also prevents the ear from becoming too dry. But too much wax in the ear can lead to the blockage of the ear, resulting in hearing problems.
Many people have too much ear wax, which causes a blockage. But the buildup of ear wax could also be due to the usage of some wrong things, such as people who have the habit of using cotton buds or hearing aids are at high risk of having blocked ears. This is because the cotton buds can push the extra ear wax further inside the ear and prevent it from falling out of the ear.
Lack of immunization
According to the World Health Organisation, approximately 34 million cases of disabling hearing loss are of children, and the lack of immunization is one of the most important causes of it. There are various causes of hearing loss, such as infectious diseases including meningitis and measles.
Meningitis and measles are two of the common infectious childhood diseases. Meningitis is defined as an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Measles is an infection caused by the virus measle, accompanied by symptoms like a rash, fever, and cough.
Both meningitis and measles are associated with hearing loss and are common among children. Therefore, providing immunization to your child can prevent them from developing these diseases.
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