Deafness or hearing impairment refers to the person’s inability to hear things, either partially or completely. Symptoms range from being mild to profound.
A person with mild hearing loss may have understanding speech, especially when there is a lot of noise around. Those who have moderate deafness may require a hearing aid, and those with severe deafness depend on lip reading to communicate with others.
People who are profoundly deaf cannot hear anything at all. They have to totally depend on sign language or lip reading to communicate with others. People who are born deaf find it difficult to learn lip reading, compared to those who become deaf after they had learnt to communicate with sounds.
There are some diseases that can lead to deafness, these include chicken pox, Mumps, Meningitis, Cytomegalovirus, Sickle cell disease, AIDS, Lyme disease, Tuberculosis, Diabetes, Syphilis, Hypothyroidism, Arthritis, and some types of cancers.
Types of deafness
Prelingual deafness is the inability to hear properly or at all before the person learnt how to speak or understand speech. These patients are born with congenital condition or they lose their hearing at a very early stage in life during infancy.
Most people who have some type of hearing loss have post-lingual deafness. These are the people who had learnt spoken language before losing their ability to hear. In such patients, deafness could be a result of medication side effect, infection, disease or a trauma.
Unilateral deafness, also known as single-sided deafness refers to deafness in just one ear, while bilateral deafness means a hearing impairment in both the ears. .
In Myanmar, according to a 1997 survey, there are around 4321680 deaf people in the population. Surprisingly, a whopping 8 percent of the population in Myanmar suffers from deafness.
The symptoms associated with deafness depend on its cause. While some people are born with deafness, others suddenly become deaf due to a trauma or illness. A buildup of earwax can also cause sudden hearing impairment. Everyone loses a certain amount of hearing during old age and even in late-middle age. In most cases, symptoms of deafness progress gradually over time.
Deafness in babies
Some signs that may indicate hearing impairment in a baby are:
- The baby does not turn his/her head towards a sound before the age of 4 months
- The baby still does not utter a single word by the age of 12 months
- The baby does not seem to get startled by a loud noise
- The baby seems to be aware of some sounds only
Deafness in toddlers and children
Some signs that may indicate hearing impairment in a toddler or child are
- The child is behind other kids of his/her age in oral communication
- The child speaks in a very loud voice, produces louder-than-normal noises
- The child keeps saying “Pardon?” or “What?”
- Whenever the child speaks, his/her words are not clear
When to see a doctor
If you have a sudden loss of hearing, especially in only one ear, you should seek immediate medical attention. Speak to your doctor if you hearing problem is interfering with your daily life. A person’s hearing may be deteriorated if he/she finds it harder to understand that is being said in a conversation, especially when there is some background noise. You should see a doctor if the sounds seem muffed, and you feel the need to turn the volume of the music or television higher than usual.
While some types of hearing loss is not treatable such as sensorineural hearing loss or when the hair cells in cochlea get damaged. However, there are treatments available to improve the patient’s quality of life.
Hearing aids are devices that help in hearing. They are of different types, and come in a wide range of circuitries, sizes and levels of power. These devices do not cure deafness, they simply amplify the sounds.
These devices are inserted to help people whose deafness is caused by hair cell damage in the cochlea. These implants help people understand speech better. It consists of an external and internal part.
While treatment is available to improve hearing function and improve quality of life of patients, the prognosis depends on severity and cause of deafness.
There is nothing that can be done to prevent congenital deafness, or hearing impairment that is caused by trauma or illness. However, there are some precautionary measures that can help reduce the risk of losing some of the hearing ability. It is important to understand that ears can be damaged in various ways including long term exposure to very loud noise-above 85dB. Avoiding loud noises can help prevent hearing impairment. Also, avoid prodding earbuds too far into a child’s ear as it can cause damage to the ear and lead to hearing impairment.